RSL Soapbox: Robbie Keane missed out on the final match of the season to determine the Supporters' Shield winner. How much of a concern is there with Robbie Keane's health at the moment?
LAG Confidential: Players go through the season with nagging injuries, that's a truism throughout all sports and it certainly is almost expected of older players. Bruce Arena is the king of the bait and switch on injuries since MLS relaxed injury reporting (and even before then), but in this case I feel he's being straightforward. The risk of aggravating the chronic injury on Seattle's turf outweighed the slight benefit of finishing first overall instead of second overall.
By the way, we're now at a point where a player can be held with a nagging unknown injury and that's the most information we'll ever get. If he doesn't play in Sandy, Utah maybe then we'll learn what body part hurts? It's a bit crazy.
RSL Soapbox: What is different about the Galaxy this year as opposed to when they met RSL in the Playoffs last year? Are the Galaxy more likely to succeed this year?
LAG Confidential: Last year's Portland and RSL were this year's Seattle and LA. It seems like forever ago, but I'm sure Salt Lake fans remember how though the PORvRSL battles were during the regular season and how everyone was waiting for the playoff series. That's what Seattle and LA have done this year, but the difference I see is that LA and RSL also had some intense battles this season but they were so long ago they might as well have taken place in another timeline.
The principles are all still there for both sides, except for LA's fullbacks who have made a full swap. Gyasi Zardes was just starting his coming out celebration last season, which has been full on through the 2014 campaign. Salt Lake still has Chris Schuler and Nick Rimando to frustrate LA's offense. It's going to be tight.
RSL Soapbox: Is the team's motivation to win for Donovan in his last MLS season a net positive or a net negative? How much of a distraction is it?
LAG Confidential: Over the month of October it reached a point of critical mass, with the Donovan's farewell tour meaning every media outlet ever created reaching out for an exclusive and pregame ceremonies taking time away from locker room speeches.
The playoffs should be free of that. There's no one left to give Donovan a gift, and the look back is less important now than cementing the legacy. If you don't think that's motivation, see Beckham, David in the dictionary. this group has done this before.
*Questions from LAG Confidential to RSL Soapbox*
LAG Confidential: Real Salt Lake beat Chivas USA in its final match of the regular season, and fans had a RIP Chivas tifo to boot. How has the fanbase reacted to the news, considering the teams came into the league together?
RSL Soapbox: The RSL fans that have been with them from the beginning are probably a bit resentful of the fact that most people expected Chivas USA to be a model franchise in MLS while the same majority thought that the new Salt Lake franchise would not survive for long. Even in and around Salt Lake City, there was a lot of pushback to getting a professional soccer franchise off the ground. Real Salt Lake has proven to be a standard-setter and the epitome of consistency since about 2009. Now the Real Salt Lake fans are having the "last laugh" in a way, not just at Chivas USA but at all those that were naysayers in 2005.
LAG Confidential: Kyle Beckerman has been through a Dispersal Draft before, but now he's RSL's World Cup star. Is he the key to how the team performs, even if he's not piling up goals and assists?
RSL Soapbox: For me, Kyle Beckerman is the engine for Real Salt Lake. During the World Cup stretch, that was when Real Salt Lake struggled the most in 2014. That is not a knock on Cole Grossman who got the most minutes in his position at that time, but a recognition that few if any players in MLS have the skillset that Beckerman has in his position as a holding midfielder. He is selfless in his play to maintain possession, he breaks up plays over and over again, and he can distribute the ball going forward with precision. As you say, even if he is not piling up goals and assists, he is the emotional leader of the team.
LAG Confidential: Nick Rimando has never won Goalkeeper of the Year, and despite another stellar year he's once again facing stiff competition. Would it be a travesty if he finished his MLS career without a ‘keeper of the year award?
RSL Soapbox: It would be absolutely ridiculous if Nick Rimando did not win Goalkeeper of the Year during his career. I have a hunch that this is his year for the award, but even if he did not win the award, his statistics speak for themselves. He leads MLS in total shutouts and by the end of his career will have set a milestone that will be extremely difficult for any keeper after him to reach. If soccer fans know anything about him, it is that he is shorter than the average goalkeeper and that his penalty kick save rate is incredible. He saves about one out of every three penalty kicks taken against him. He has had as good of a year in goal in 2014 as he has ever had, so if he does not win the contest this year, I don't think it will ever happen.