Real Salt Lake
Home Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT
Record Since 2000: 25-60-33
All Time Scorer in MLS: Jeff Cunningham (18)
All Time Cups/Shields: 0
2008 Record: 10-10-10, 40 pts, 3rd in Western Conference
2008 Leading Scorer: Yura Movsisyan (7)
2008 Keeper: Nick Rimando (1.30 GAA, 8 Clean Sheets)
Key Player: Kyle Beckerman, holding midfielder that can enter the box late on runs
Capsule: That’s Ree-all, not real. Salt Lake’s club has ties to Real Madrid of Spain, but don’t look for that kind of offensive output. This is one of the more English styled teams with a defensive 4-4-2 that looks to close in tightly and open up on the counter. Javier Morales runs the offense as the Center Attacking Mid in their diamond, distributing to the forward duo of Movsisyan and Robbie Findley. Clint Mathis joined the club late last year and so integrating him into the team will be a focus. Kyle Beckerman’s dreadlocks dominate the defense from his holding midfielder role. Aiding him in the solid back line that was amongst the stingiest defenses in the league are Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave. Sometimes Jason Kreis will switch to a 4-5-1 to provide more midfield defense in width.
Further Depth: RSL was the most conservative of the playoff teams, and while I could make jokes concerning their home state, it is likely due to the fact that the club has a philosophy that looks to continuity, not glamour. Salt Lake had very little turnover, and so can continue to play Kreis' style focusing on core strength and team work.
If was to put a basketball metaphor RSL would be San Antonio or Detroit. Franchises that put team ahead of individuals, though RSL hasn't had their success, their philosophy and system seem to be echoes of what the NBA has seen as highly successful.
What is intriguing about RSL though is that they do this while coached by the #3 scorer in league history, this club is lead instead by a distributor in Javier Morales. Morales and Beckerman lead from the center of the pitch, and those two will determine the success of the club. With news that Freddie will play at least 30 minutes, the strong defense of Beckerman will get tested as will Ljungberg's surgically repaired hip. Sounders FC defense will be again tested by one of the league's best at a position, and again the Rave Green will look to Osvaldo Alonso to take control of his half.
Salt Lake has a slight advantage in that they have tape of Sounders FC in a live match that counts and are rested, but they were also one of the worst teams on the road last year. Seattle will continue to have the crowd behind it (larger than any RSL played in front of last year - peaked at 27,000 even), but will also have greater depth with Ljungberg, Zakuani and
even Jeff Parke at full strength serving his suspension hiding in Canada. Speaking of the crowd, break out the Scarves again tomorrow. Do not hide the colors, but continue to build on last week's momentus.
While last week Seattle played a 3-2-3-2 due to the speed of Richards, Sigi could go a little more offensive and bring both fullbacks up for even more offense and play a 2-3-3-2, with late runs from Scott and Riley down the wings in overlaps or just pure offense. RSL if described in my four layer terms could be called a 4-3-1-2 due to Beckerman's more box-to-box sense than "true" CDM. Look for Montero to be marked heavily, maybe even doubled after last week's dual honors (Goal of Week, Player of Week), which could provide more opportunities for Nate Jaqua and Brad Evans up the middle.