Friday, March 8, 2013

Ben Cup 2013 Preview

2013 is the year of the one-off Ben Cup match as MLS, in its infinite wisdom, is going more and more towards unbalanced schedules (which I hate in all sports, but that's another topic for another day). What this means is RSL will play certain teams 2 or 3 times, while others just once. By virtue of being across the country, we only get one Ben Cup match this year. I'm guessing it's in DC to give United an advantage, since this is a Cup they've only won once. Nice of the MLS schedulers to do that for them. So that means this Saturday, 5pm (Mtn.) is for all the marbles...er, trophy. Game on channel 4 and 700 AM. Here's a few of the bigger stories for Saturday:

Key Players Missing
RSL will once again be missing Javi, Nat, and Wingert through injury. Grabavoy also expected to miss with a lingering family issue (RR sends its best to him!). For DCU, DeRosario will miss the game through suspension for being a dumbass for headbutting an opponent during a preseason game. Actually, I think I was right the first time...

The K in RFK is for Kurse
RSL has played 7 games at RFK since coming into the league in 2005 (the REAL RSL 1.0). How many have they won? ZERO. Four losses, three ties. While a tie will retain the Cup for RSL for another year, we don't want to do it that way. But to win the trophy properly, they'll have to figure out the "kurse" of RFK.

Home Motivation
This game will be the home opener for DCU which, when combined with their loss last weekend against Houston, should provide the home side a spark. If RSL can find an early break through (or even just weather the early momentum), they should be in a good position to steal at least a point and the Cup!

Something's Fishy
While Ben Olsen straight up admitted he is not near 100% fitness and will not start, I would expect the Fish, Carlos Ruiz to find his way to the bench. If DCU needs a late spark, he could be a huge one, even at less than optimal fitness.

Confidence Issues
While I thought Robbie Findley showed some flashes last week, something did seem a bit off. I mark it down to confidence issues. I think getting little game time while being continually shuffled between managers, teams, and leagues would do that to a person. If he can grab a goal, look for his play to blossom.

Hi!
While we're playing the big Ben Cup match, RR just wants to give a shout out to DCU's Robbie Russell. Thanks for MLS Cup!

Having looked at both rosters on this great game guide produced by the league (although it is missing all the injuries), I like how RSL matches up here. With the exception of maybe Chris Pontius, no one in that starting 11 scares me. The loss of DeRo is a big one for this United squad. Does this mean that I think RSL will just walk all over them? Quite the opposite. There is still quite a bit of talent on that roster and RSL will be playing its second road game in as many weeks (and on the opposite coast). To be honest, while DCU is no San Jose, RSL was second-best for the first 65 minutes of that game last week and was lucky that poor finishing kept the Earthquakes off the board. If RSL's back line shows up that shaky again this week, it could get ugly. That being said, RSL is the better team and should squeak one out to get their first win at RFK. Better yet, the Ben Cup stays in Sandy!

YE OLDE ROYAL PREDICTION: RSL 2 - DCU 1 (goals to Sabo and DJ Robbie F*)

*I have no idea why I called him that, but you must admit it is awesome!


On a side note, in other DC sports news, LET'S GO ORANGE! Take down those GTown bastards!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013 Offseason Review/Mini Preview

Holy crap! A Royal Review post! I know, I know, I think they found the Lindbergh baby too! Anyway, I'm so glad to have RSL back starting tonight (as I'm sure you are too, if you're reading this) that I decided to actually throw a quick post together.

Mostly, I wanted to run through some of the roster moves and see where I think the team has improved (or gotten worse) from 2012. I'm lazy (and in a hurry) so I won't go through all the roster moves here, I'll assume you're up to date on that by now. And away we go:

Goalkeepers: Improved
While Nick Rimando will remain between the sticks and continue to be one of the league's best, it is behind him that the improvement has come. Yes, I think that Kyle Reynish is a capable backup and thought he did a solid job, however, how often do you get the chance to add last year's championship winning goalie as your #2??? Great (and underrated) move by RSL this offseason.

Defense: Even
Let's get it out of the way, Olave is a huge loss. HUGE. But he is also injury plagued. With how many games he missed last year, we are basically left with the same back line as last year. I actually think unloading Olave was probably the best move RSL made this offseason, at least in the departure category. He will be missed, but it was a good time to cut our losses. The injuries to Borchers and Wingert to start the season are the big worry in my eyes and the defense could be off to a rough start this year.

Midfield: Worsened
The player I think RSL will miss most in 2013 is Will Johnson. He always did a little bit of everything while being a bit unappreciated for it. His impact can be shown by the fact that he's already been named captain at his new club. Luis Gil is extremely talented and will be a great player one day (and I think he'll have a quality 2013), but he does not make up for Will (yet). The other "loss" in midfield is Javi Morales, who has yet to return to his pre-injury form from a couple seasons ago. With him again on the injury list and his increasing age, I have my doubts that he will ever be the regular impact player he once was. I'm hoping that he will prove me wrong, but until he does, I tend to think RSL's centering their off-season around Javi re-signing was kind of a bad idea. (Having said all that, you don't easily just replace Javier Morales. On his game, he is a difference maker.) None of the new signings really get me excited at all (they are not bad signings, just not any that will likely be difference makers) and the over dependence on Ned Grabavoy scares me a little. He's a good role player, but little more, and I think he'll be getting more minutes than I'd like to see this year.

Forward: Improved
This one is easy. I love Fabi, but I think a change of scenery was probably needed for him. On top of that, Robbie Findley > Fabian Espindola. So glad to have Robin Hood back from Sherwood! Joao Plata is an upgrade from Paulo Jr., and with Kreis' insistence on not giving Braun a chance (a bad move both from a marketing standpoint and an on-field standpoint. We weren't scoring either way last year!) made his loss a non-issue. Hopefully, Saborio can learn to be less streaky and to turn it on against better opponents, but even if he doesn't, I think Robbie will be able to pick up some of that slack.

Overall: Slightly Improved
I do think RSL 2013 (sorry Garth, this is not RSL 2.0! Did you forget the Rice-Eccles years? I haven't) is probably better than 2012. Not having CONCACAF play sucks, but I think will be a godsend for a team that seemed to get stretched a bit thin by the end of last year.

Best case scenario for 2013:
Javi comes back strong and the defense holds out until Borchers and Wingert get back. The injury bug stays away. RSL makes an uncharacteristic deep run in the Open Cup and wins it. Takes 3rd in the West and has a magical 2009-ish run to MLS Cup.

Worst case for 2013:
Javi and Nat struggle with injuries all season while Kyle and Nick (and Sabo) take off on international duty. The piecemeal defense struggles. Luis Gil can't take the next step over a whole season. RSL again crashes out of the Open Cup against Amateur FC and finishes in the 6-8 range, missing the playoffs.

Royal Review 2013 prediction:
RSL finally wins a couple Open Cup games, but falls before the final. A streaky season where they go back to winning at home and struggling on the road. Finishes 3rd or 4th in the west behind some combination of San Jose, Seattle, and LA. RSL wins the Rocky Mountain Cup and keeps the Ben Cup based off an early season tie against DCU (their only meeting this year). Falls in the 2nd round of the playoffs. I'll try and keep the blog up and fail (hahaha!).

LET'S GO RSL!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Has it been a year already?

Wow. Getting a bit dusty around here. Hard to believe it has been a year since my last post. Crazy how time flies. Not sure what I'm going to do around here, I'd still like to post, albeit probably not at the prolific rate I did in '09. On a side note, what a great year to pick to cover the team, huh? We're still the home for the Ben Cup, that's not something I will let die (in fact, this year's installment kicks off June 18th). Should be fun with a re-tooled DC United this year. Excited to see RSL take down Dax, Party Boy, and CD9!
Anyway, great start to the season so far. Great CCL results, even if RSL should be up 3-0 instead of 2-0 on Saprissa. I was right there, saw the goal that was called off. There was no call to be made there. That ref was an ass. But I digress. Hard fought win in the slop at San Jose and then the demolition of the Gals last weekend. It's been fun to watch. I'm very excited to see what RSL can put together in what is sure to be an imposing environment in Costa Rica.
And really, that's all I've got for the moment (this was a very spur of the moment post). If you still check in every now and then, thanks! If you enjoy the Review, leave a comment, please. It may inspire me to post more! In closing, I'd like to give a couple virtual high-fives out. First to RSL for signing nationally ranked player Conor Chinn as a fourth string forward. He puts star(kick)s in my eyes (and don't get run over)! And also to Nat Borchers for his sweet "Lambeau Leap" (Sandy Spring? Borchers Bound?) into the supporters end after the Saprissa game. It was a very nice touch!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Game 1: RSL vs. SJ - Live Thoughts

I'll work on this as long as I feel like it; if it suddenly ends, sorry. Ha!

Pregame- Espi and Findley up top, nice. Grabavoy on the right instead of AWill, who I kinda expected to see. Just seconds away!

1st min-And RSL 2010 is off and running! Kinda digging the blue stripes on the sleeves on the away jersey.

5th min-Both teams looking out of sync and tenative. Espindola goes flying over the boards as Leitch fouls him very near the sideline. Crazy!

7th min-Rimando slips trying to clear the ball, SJ nearly pounces on it... Yikes, not a good start.

9th min-Salt Lake's D looking very vulnerable early. This could be a high scoring affair if either team can get its passing together.

12th min-Dangerous SJ free kick in the corner but luckily right to Big Nick.

14th min-GOAL JAVI! Gorgeous shot from deep!
Wife wants the laptop so I'm out.

27th min-And I'm back. Javi a beautiful ball through the middle and 2 defenders to Espi who chips Cannon. 2-0 RSL!

30 minutes in, Espi, Javi, and Rimando looking good. Central defense still bending but haven't broken yet.

31st min-Both RSL and SJ players slipping in the same place Nick did earlier. Apparently there have been oil slicks installed at Buck Shaw.

33rd min-Announcers just said former RSL man Atiba Harris has scored a goal tonight. Nice to hear, always liked Atiba.

34th min-Grabavoy diving in recklessly again, luckily no foul. He's been doing that a lot tonight, he needs to be careful, many MLS refs will card him for efforts like that.

37th min-Findley really struggling with the touch tonight, even more so than usual. A bit overeager perhaps?

39th min-And there's Ned's yellow. He really needs to get his head on straight.

42nd min-Cornell Glen and Ryan Johnson causing RSL all sorts of problems. Becks comes flying into the box and saves the day just before Glen can turn.

Half time- RSL 2 - SJ 0. Nice first 45 minutes of the season for the Reds. Was it perfect? Not by any means, but up 2-0 on the road at half is not a place RSL sees themselves very often! B+. Javi, Nick, Espi, and the outside backs have impressed. The central defenders, Neddy G, and Robbie F. have looked a bit off.

46th min-30 seconds in, Espi already on the attack again, Cannon barely able to stop his run!

53rd min- Espi gets free, beats Leitch, who grabs him from behind just outside the box. Last man back, red card Leitch. Javi then rockets the free kick into the far post upper 90. 3-0 RSL! Javi looking like he should be going to South Africa with Argentina tonight! Up 3, up a man, barring a complete collapse, this is 3 points in the bank for RSL.

58th min-Brandon McDonald goes in very high and very late on WillJ. Yellow card. Quakes losing their composure here?

59th min-Nat Borchers looking like he's at the end of a Rocky movie, absolutely covered in blood. Cut on his forehead.

60th min-10 v 10 while Nat is attended to. Alvarez burns Robbie Russell, gets free in the box, but hits the post. San Jose's follow-up goes way over.

63rd min-And to answer the trivia question: Who are RSL's first subs of 2010? Rauwshan McKenzie for the bloody Borchers and Andy Williams for Ned Grabbingboys.

65th min-Olave beaten, ugly foul from behind on Johnson. Yellow card. Dangerous place for a free kick. Alvarez shanks it. Crisis averted.

71st min-Espi out, Alvaro Saborio in. Big new signing or Kenny Deuchar part 2?

73rd-Must say that the defense, for the most part, has looked improved here in the second half.

73rd-Johnson gets the ball right in front of the goal, great save Rimando! Also kicked Olave on the follow through, possibly in the knee. All subs have been made for RSL, we're going 10 v 10, at least for a while.

75th-Saborio with a long shot, rolls weakly to Cannon. First MLS shot for him.

76th-Olave back on but obviously hurt. This allows Glen to run right by him, but Rimando uts him off and he just puts it wide.

78th-Saborio beats and draws the defense, passes to Findley in the box, Cannon beaten, Corrales saves it off the line. Shades of things to come?

80th min-Olave still limping, announcers say it's the right knee. Could be a devastating blow for RSL if he is out for any extended length of time.

82nd-I know the shutout would be nice and all, but RSL should really think about just pulling Olave and not risk further injury. Since the Quakes are already down a man, you'd still be even strength. Not worth keeping him out there to protect a 3 goal lead for 10 min.

84th-Maybe a little early to say this but Saborio already looking much faster and with much better feet than Deuchar ever did.

85th-Ryan Johnson with a flick to Amerikwa who just can't quite get onto the ball for a free header.

86th-Ryan Johnson looks very dangerous still. Could be a big year for him.

88th-Wave after wave of SJ attack. Alvarez and Johnson leading the charge. You'd think they were up a man! Olave down again and now with a huge limp. GET HIM OFF THE FIELD!

90th-Olave on one leg with a beautiful challenge in the box on Amerikwa, denying his run. Perfectly timed! Dude is a beast!

90+1-Amerikwa throws a completely unnecessary shoulder/elbow into WillJ as he goes by, nearly starts a fight. Guess who just won Assclown of the Match?

Full time-RSL starts 2010 with a 3-0 victory ON THE ROAD!!! Nice start to the year. Second half got a little ugly late, especially with Olave hurt and San Jose desperate. Half grade-B

Grades:
Game grade: B+, nice 3-0 win, but probably should be a bit better up a man. Seemed to get a bit complacent late.

Player grades:
Nick Rimando-8 Stellar all night long.
Robbie Russell-6 A couple mistakes too many.
Nat Borchers-6 OK game for Nat, probably needs a transfusion now.
(Rauwshan McKenzie)-6 Quiet, but helped keep SJ off the board.
Jamison Olave-6 Had some great moments and some iffy ones.
Chris Wingert-6 Great first half, too quiet in the second.
Kyle Beckerman-6 Nondescript game for Becks.
Ned Grabavoy-5 A little too wild and crazy on his challenges.
(Andy Williams)-6 Not a ton to do, but tracked back well on defense.
Will Johnson-6 Quiet game for the Mountie.
Javier Morales-9 Absolutely brilliant. 2 goals and an assist.
Fabian Espindola-8 Great game. Got a goal and was a thorn in SJ's side all night.
(Alvaro Saborio)-7 Not a lot of time on the field, but very active.
Robbie Findley-5 Poor game for Robbie, touch was really off.

RSL Man of the Match: Javi Morales
Abused the San Jose midfield and defense. Simply masterful, by far the best player on the field.

Assclown of the Match: Quincy Amarikwa
Gives Will Johnson an overly-aggressive version of the old "high school shoulder" for no reason. Totally douchy move. Amarikwa the Assclown. It just rolls off the tongue.

Pros and Cons:
+Javi and Espi looking like their old selves.
+RSL already has half as many road wins as last year after one game.
+Nice solid shutout to start the year.
+Rimando great, as usual, in goal.
-Injury to Olave looks like it could be pretty big and possibly recurring throughout the year.
-Although they didn't give up a goal, the defense looked very suspect at times.
-Have Findley's feet actually gotten worse?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Royal Review Does The Double!

Now I have terrible luck with my sports teams usually (see: Chicago Cubs, Syracuse Univ. Football, Southern Utah Univ. anything, RSL until last year), but amazingly, both of the soccer teams that I root for have won the championship! We all know that RSL won the MLS Cup, but over last weekend, Sydney FC went into Melbourne and beat the hated rival Victory on their home turf for the Australian A-League championship. Nice! Oddly, both RSL and SFC needed penalty kicks to decide the championship. My favorite moment of the game? The 40-second or so sequence in the following video that is, in my opinion, one of the great sports sequences of all time:

Melbourne have a goal disallowed for offside and, while complaining, fail to fully get back on defense which allows Sydney to score a quick "counter attack" goal. Making it even better is the reaction of the Melbourne fan in front at about :56 seconds in. Classic. Congrats to my boys in sky blue, Sydney FC, on the championship! And while we are at it, good luck in SLC, Syracuse! Final Four, here we come. And last, but certainly not least, with the MLS season ready to kick off this week (finally, and thankfully, with the strike averted): GO REAL SALT LAKE!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Luis Gil

How funny. I read an article this morning where US U-17 midfielder Luis Gil, recently won by the Wizards in a lottery, had stated he wanted to stay out west with either Seattle or Salt Lake. On my way here to the Review to talk about how I thought that would be a nice pickup for the future, I stopped by Steve Goff's blog on the Washington Post and he says that RSL has already traded for Gil! I really like the move and think Gil could develop well with the help of Javi, Kyle, Andy, WillJ, and coach K (not to mention perhaps some CONCACAF Champions League experience). I'm not sure how I feel about RSL sending ANOTHER of its few international spots to KC (hopefully this one's only for a year, not time and all eternity). More details to come, I'm sure, but for now, nice move by RSL!

Monday, February 1, 2010

2011 RSL

So I've been playing a bit (ok, a TON) of Football Manager 2010 lately, and with the offseason dragging on, I decided to post the 2011 Real Salt Lake roster (at least with manager 'Max Power' at the helm):

GK:
Nick Rimando
Quentin Westberg ($30k transfer from ESTAC-French League-in 2010)

DF:
Nat Borchers
Jamison Olave
Tony Beltran (currently transfer listed by request)
Chris Wingert
David Horst
Drew Moor (claimed from waiver draft 2011)
Bakary Soro (signed on a free transfer 2009)
Jeremy Hall (also MF, trade for Chris Seitz-preseason 2011)

MF:
Kyle Beckerman (captain)
Javier Morales (vice captain)
Will Johnson
Andy Williams
Jean Alexandre
Alex Nimo
Nick LaBrocca (claimed off waivers 2010)
Rhyan Grant ($1.4 million transfer 2010)
DaMarcus Beasley (free transfer, released from club after WC2010)

FW:
Robbie Findley
Edson Buddle (claimed off waivers 2009)
Shane Smeltz ($775k transfer after incentives mid-2011)
oh, and one other guy...
(the oft-injured) Ruud van Nistelrooy (free transfer mid-2010)

All in with almost $1,000 to spare per week under the cap.

As of July 27, 2011, RSL is sitting 4th of 8 in the Western Conference with a 9-8-1 record and 28 points. However, the first stretch of the season was busy with games in the 2010-2011 Champions League, where RSL ultimately came in 2nd after falling to America in the final. RSL is also still alive in the USOC, with an upcoiming semi-final game against the Gals.