Like last week the Sounders are facing another SBNation blog/opponent. I caught up with denz over at www.RSLSoapBox.com about Real Salt Lake, holders of the MLS Cup. By the way, this weekend the team gets their rings in a pre-game ceremony.
1 - RSL has had a core of players over the past 2+ seasons, are you seeing year to year improvements as they learn each others games?
It has been huge for RSL, the team that took the pitch in 2008 had over 20 new faces from the 2007 squad as RSL's new coach and GM built a team that would embrace the mentality of the team being the star. Once you find players willing to commit to that mentality and show the heart and passion to match their talent, you want to keep them around, the ability for them to know what each other is capable of allows them to take chances both on offense and defense, and that has made us a better team. It is that type of familiarity that allowed us to make two early subs in the MLS Cup and actually not drop off in performance but actually start to dominate the match. I heard RSL GM Garth Lagerwey once say that RSL wants great players who are good people, and that mentality has shown in the relationships of the teammates, how they interact with the fans, and mostly how they perform on the pitch.
2 - Rimando doesn't have the build of the typical keeper, but puts up solid efforts - how?
Nick is a cat, somewhere in his DNA are the genes that allow him to pounce on shots like a big cat. His reflexes are simply amazing, so when you combine them with his vision and ability to track the game, and his knowledge of the league and it's players, it makes him a top level keeper. I think if Nick were 6'2" there is no way he could make some of the amazing saves that he has made over the last few years, it is that incredible combination of a smaller frame, great vision of the game, knowledge of the sport and league, and reflexes that are catlike, that makes him who he is.
3 - Does the altitude change how opposing teams typically play Salt Lake, or is it overrated?
Most teams come in looking to slow the match down and will try to play long balls to their forwards in an attempt to not have to go full out for 90 minutes because the elevation does impact their play. For most players you see it about the 60th minute, they come out for the second half hoping to be refreshed but quickly find themselves sucking for air. RSL has taken great advantage of that with bringing in their creative offensive players to cause chaos on weary foes, it could be Andy Williams confusing them with his footwork and ball control, or Robbie Findley coming on late and defenders simply being unable to deal with his speed. I don't think a team can put up back to back 1 loss seasons at home without some type of advantage. Some places it is the heat, or humidity, in Salt Lake it is the altitude and fan support of their home team.