Saturday, March 5, 2016
(MLS) Game 1: Sunday, March 6 @Orlando
BEN CUP 2016: Friday, July 1 vs. DC United (in Sandy!)
End of (Regular) Season: Sunday, October 23 @Seattle
Well, looking back at my 2015 Season Preview, RSL fell squarely into the "worst case scenario" including injuries, signings not panning out, Sabo struggling, and the formation not working out. It was ugly, and by the end of the year, very reminiscent of 2007 era RSL. I think this year's model is better equipped for the 4-3-3, and am hopeful for better results.
Things I liked this offseason:
+Bringing back Chris Wingert. So underrated (I'd still take him over Beltran, but I digress) and he wanted to be here. Glad RSL took the no-brainer and scooped him up.
+Bringing back Yura Movsisyan. I was admittedly not a big fan of his first go round in Utah (he was too wasteful for my tastes), but there was no doubting that the potential was there. I'm hoping the time overseas has honed his skills and mind, and we get him at his peak.
+The removal of the "nacho platter" from the uniforms. That damn yellow stripe thing was an atrocity.
+Saucedo loan to Mexico. He gets some experience in a competitive soccer country. Very shrewd move by RSL, especially for a guy unlikely to play big minutes this year.
+The solar panel installation at Rio Tinto Stadium. Really good move, props to the team for being on the leading edge in this regard.
+This only semi-counts as "offseason," but I really liked the performance (in both legs) against Tigres. Played them very tough and showed some life, unlike much of last year. In a month, with some matches under their belts, RSL wins that 2nd leg going away.
Things I didn't like this offseason:
-The lack of ambition and reach shown. While I like that they brought back 2 good players, the team's continued reliance (and not just this offseason) on bringing back former players and relying on older players is a concern. Unfortunately, my feeling on this is backed up by a Sports Illustrated article ranking MLS teams by ambition. RSL's rank? 17th. Dell Loy Hansen has really shown me very little in this regard since taking over the team. He ran out some of the best front office guys in the league and (semi-)replaced them with cheap in-house options, for example. Speaking of which...
-The keeping of Cassar/4-3-3. Ugh. I do give RSL a little credit here for bringing in some guys (specifically Sunday and Yura) who can actually fit in this formation, thereby trying to make it work, but I'm doubtful. It looked decent against Tigres, sure, but it looked awful all last year. Cassar's insistence on playing the formation despite all evidence, feeling, logic, and results going against it was reason enough for me to want him gone.
-No depth. Supposedly they've been after a couple center backs, with deals that have fallen through. However, the season is now here and CB remains paper thin. Maund looked really good against Tigres, but he's been so mistake prone in the past, that I don't know if I trust him as a starter. We're also thin up front again, with no real replacement for Yura, Javi, or Plata/Burrito. You say, "But, we've got Olmes and Sandoval to play up front!" Yeah, that's my point. And I love Jordan Allen, but he's not ready to take over as a playmaker for this team. Hell, he's still learning the position!
So where does this all leave us? It's an interesting one, as I think RSL will be better, but they are far from the level of LA (how the hell do they fit all these guys under the cap???) or Portland.
The worst case for me would basically be a repeat of last year. Injuries in key positions (Olave is always likely) could be killer, especially with the lack of depth. Guys like Garcia, Sandoval, and the homegrown signings continue to struggle. Yura gets left out to dry by the formation. Guys get upset by playing time/team performance and the locker room turns rotten. They lose the all-important Ben Cup again. RSL misses the playoffs by 5-10 points.
The best case involves Yura living up to his potential and billing and scoring 15+. Morales, Beckerman, Olave, Wingert defy age and have great years. Stephen Sunday is as good as he looked against Tigres. Olmes finally brings back the mojo from his rookie year. Allen continues his upward trajectory. The team destroys DCU on its home turf to return the Ben Cup to its rightful home. RSL hits the playoffs fighting for the 3rd seed.
The Royal Review Prediction:
RSL puts together a solid, but unspectacular season. They bring in a new signing during the season that shows potential, but is uneven. Olave gets hurt, but only misses a couple games. Allen looks good, but doesn't hit stardom yet. Sunday is a good addition. RSL wins the Ben Cup by a goal and RSL fans everywhere rejoice. Yura drops in about 10 goals and over 5 assists. You follow the Royal Review on Twitter (@Royal_Review) because you love me and this blog so much. RSL reaches the playoffs as a low seed and puts up a fight in round 1 before going out.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Friday, March 6, 2015
If there's one thing that scares me about RSL this year, it is injuries. Many of our key guys are old and/or injury-prone. Olave, Morales, Saborio, Schuler. It scares the hell out of me. That being said, I do like a lot of what's here.
The offense has a lot of potential. If Sabo and Plata can regain their past form, we'll score a lot. If Olmes remembers how to play soccer, even better! If Jaime adjusts to MLS, look out. Speaking of Jaime, I'm not sure what to expect. Let's be honest, he was a complete waste of a DP slot last year. Yet, a lot of guys that come in mid-season struggle until they get a full preseason under their belt. Long time listeners (first time callers) will recall Morales really wasn't all that great when he first came to Salt Lake either. No, I'm not forgetting Sandoval, but if we're depending on him to drive our offence, we're in a lot of trouble.
Moving to the midfield, we have known quantities, but somehow a lot of questions. Morales still has the vision and the technical ability, but he's getting up there (35 years old). Can he last a full season any more? Is there enough left in his legs for him to track back when needed, or even go a full 90? Speaking of age, Beckerman turns 33 in April. He has been extremely solid when it comes to injury, but when will that start to change? Probably not this year, but then, all it takes is one bad tackle (see: Morales, Javi). The biggest question is Luis Gil. Is this the year he finally consistently shows the brilliance that has always been expected from him? If he can make that leap to stardom (or near it), RSL could be scary good this year. Mulholland looked steady last year, and I expect more of the same now that he has a season under his belt and knows what to expect. In fact, a small bit of improvement this year wouldn't surprise me. Newcomer Pecka is an unknown quantity (for me, and for most, don't lie). The word often used for him upon his signing was "bite," but he's only around 5'6" or 5'7" which doesn't really scream intimidating to me. We'll see how he does.
The defense will be interesting. When they are healthy and on top of their games, and if they can learn to mesh together, I could certainly see Schuler/Olave being the best CB duo in MLS. Scary good. Then again, especially with Olave, but also to a point with Schuler, I always felt that Borchers was kind of the brain behind their brawn. Nat always seemed to get them in the right positions and help them make the reads so that they could react. We'll see how true that feeling was (and more on Nat in a sec). That being said, Schuler seems to have a good defensive IQ and it gets better every year, and Olave seemed to make a good impression in NYC without Nat, so I don't think simple positioning mistakes should be too prevalent. Beltran is Beltran. Workmanlike, steady, won't generally give you the spectacular, but generally won't lose many games for you. Demar Phillips should be a good pickup, coming over from Scandinavia and with over 60 caps for Jamaica. I hate to see Wingert go, but hopefully this will be more than sufficient cover for that loss. The young Guatemalan defender, Elias Vasquez, intrigues me. He comes with a good pedigree, including 25 caps, and he's only 22. I would imagine he'll get some game time this year, as I would think Cassar would rest his center backs, especially Olave, in order to keep them rested and healthy.
We lost a lot this offseason. A great GM in Garth? Gone. Wingert, Findley, Borchers? See ya. There's plenty more, but I don't need to rehash stuff that's been done to death. As you read the defender section, you may have thought, "Man, this guy loves Nat. He must be distraught!" Actually, no. I do like Nat and thought he did a great job here. However, last year you could just see he'd lost...something. He just seemed out of sorts in spots that he never did before. I think age is starting to creep up on him and that this was the perfect time for RSL to cut ties. Wingert, in my opinion, was a bigger loss. I will never understand why he never got a real shot at the USMNT, especially considering the dearth of full back options there. He has been consistently better than Beltran, yet got none of the fanfare. Extremely underrated and his loss hurts. RSL did a great job finding Phillips, however, and I'm much less pessimistic about left back than I was. Then there's Robbie Findley. Longtime RSL fans will know that wasn't the real Robbie out there last year. He just looked rusty to me and by the end of the season, lacking in confidence. His playing time was extremely hit or miss and he could never get into a rhythm. And Robbie needs rhythm. With a full offseason under him, I think he is due for a nice bounceback season and RSL will regret letting him go so easily. That is, if he can get PT in Toronto with Jozy there now.
So what will happen this year?
Worst case: Injuries, Olave goes down for the season. Morales gets hurt. Sabo struggles while dealing with some injuries. Schuler leads the back line for a while but then gets some niggling injuries himself. The new signings flame out. Plata's pre-injury form last year turns out to be a fluke. Rimando, Backerman, and Sabo all take off for the Gold Cup leaving RSL even more shorthanded. The new 4-3-3 formation never really seems to sink in. We limp into a fight for the last playoff seed and fall just short. We lose the Ben Cup.
Best case: Team stays healthy. Sabo/Plata become a killer strike force once again. Jaime figures it out. Schuler and Olave become the pairing they can be, Gil takes the step to the next level. Phillips is a revelation in the back, Grab second in the west, maybe steal the Open Cup, and who knows when you're into the playoffs. We win the Ben Cup overwhelmingly.
RR Forecast: I think some injuries will hit, but I'm hopeful we're not decimated. Schuler and Olave will become a dominant force. The new formation will be a little bit of trouble early, but we'll figure it out. Sabo gets back to his old form (great for a few games, disappears for the next few, repeat) and puts up at least 12-15. Morales will be great again, but his age will start to show by the end of the year. Gil is better, but still not where maybe his potential says he could/should. Perhaps used in a disadvantageous position for him. An early USOC exit, solid CCL play, a 3 or 4 seed in the west. At least one playoff round win. A small step back from last year, but mostly because everyone else seemed to get a lot better, rather than us getting worse. We win the Ben Cup.
GO RSL! Peace,
Friday, March 8, 2013
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Game grade: B+, nice 3-0 win, but probably should be a bit better up a man. Seemed to get a bit complacent late.
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?