Real Salt Lake can’t lose.
Stop rubbing your eyes. You really did just read that first sentence correctly. Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in five games and looking like a real challenger for a playoff spot in the wide-open Western Conference.
If RSL needed a signature win to show it is for real, that win came on Saturday against a New England team that hadn’t lost in seven matches. Yes, it should be noted that all-star midfielder Shalrie Joseph didn’t play, but that doesn’t take away from Real Salt Lake’s impressive effort.
SBI correspondents Scott McAllister and Andrew Karl took in the action and gave us their takes on the match:
There is plenty for Real Salt Lake fans to smile about
By SCOTT McALLISTER
I had the opportunity to approach and depart Saturday’s match via a southernly route, rather than my usual north. This provided a prime opportunity to risk my life on I-15 while I gawked in mesmerized awe toward the curved canopies that adorn the future home of Real Salt Lake. I think I only drifted lanes once each time I passed the stadium. No one honked, so I think I’m okay.
Nothing could ruin an experience like that, although RSL’s performance in the first 10 minutes against the Revolution on Saturday night came pretty close. The combination of Kenny Deuchar clanking his open header off the post in the opening minutes; and then watching New England’s Adam Cristman get to a ball he had no business of touching while Nick Rimando and Nat Borchers played the “you got it” game, letting Cristman score was almost too much. With a start like that the game seemed to be doomed. After all, before Saturday New England hadn’t lost a game this year where they scored first, and RSL hadn’t won one where they fell behind first.
RSL’s luck began to change when Jay Heaps did a great job of beating Matt Reis with his header. It almost looked like Robbie Findley, at least from where I was sitting, got his head on it, but he certainly didn’t celebrate like he had. Plus, watching the replay later confirmed that it was Heaps who nodded it home.
Admittedly, Salt Lake didn’t exactly look sharp, but they were the better side on the night. Even without any real rhythm they kept control of the game and continued to push to get the second goal. A lot of times this year we see that the players have an idea of what needs to be done but can’t quite finish it off. On Saturday night against the Revs RSL executed exactly what needed to be done. Rookie Tino Nunez should get some recognition because even though his goal was set up on a silver platter, he still had to finish –which he did quite well.
We saw the return of Andy Williams to the lineup from International duty with Jamaica. While Williams was away I thought Matias Cordoba settled well into his roll as a backup winger. He looked shaking in his first appearance, but gradually progressed into a solid contributor. His free kick Wednesday night was well struck and didn’t miss by much. For now, Williams is still the better option, but Cordoba can now step in in a pinch with very little drop in quality at the position.
Now that we’ve looked at some specifics, can we take look at something that normally makes us grimace as Salt Lake supporters? The standings. Real Salt Lake is sitting in second place – from the TOP – of the Western Conference. Playoff time is still very far away, but we should appreciate these accomplishments when we get them. Not losing in five outings, tying a team record, goes a long way in climbing the table, and with the West as tight as it is it’s not a given that RSL will stay where it is. That said, accomplishments like this are new for Salt Lake, so we should all relish the feeling just a bit. Admit it, you know you want to print out the standings so that you can have proof that RSL was actually this high in the table. Or,should we save that for when they hop over the Galaxy for the top spot with a win over Kansas City next week?
Revs just not good enough in first loss in seven
By ANDREW KARL
So much for four in the back, so much for my coaching know-how. After Wednesday night’s disappointing draw against the Red Bulls, a game in which the three-man defense of Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, and Chris Albright was lucky to have only surrendered one goal, I was clamoring for a 4-back system. My cries were heard Saturday night, as the New England Revolution trotted out 4 defenders, the aforementioned three plus young left back Amaechi Igwe. Unfortunately I’m not a very good coach.
Adam Cristman scored (read: poached) New England’s only goal, assisted by Matt Reis, the high altitude, and the green concrete carpet at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This, along with Sainey Nyassi’s continued excellence on the flank, highlighted a Revolution performance where highlights were too few and far between. Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, benefited from defensive anchors Jamison Olave and Kyle Beckerman and flashes of brilliance from Riquelme look-a-like Javier Morales.
The Revs suffered their first loss in 7 games as the defense sputtered like a backfiring 1989 Volkswagen Jetta (of which I owned two in high school). Parkhurst fell short of impressive, and Heaps managed to flick a perfect header into his own net. Even playing at his preferred position of right full back, Albright looked lost once again. It’s as if the former LA man has yet to shake off the rust from the injury that kept him out for the majority of last season. It has to be said that Albright hasn’t played up to the level at which he used to perform in a green-sashed gold jersey. Get up the sideline and do some damage, Chris, before your fat wallet ends up sandwiched between your rear and the bench.
We’ve all heard the stories about how he walked on to the Duke basketball team, and every game we see him out jump forwards that have a height advantage of up to a whole foot on him, but Jay Heaps is not cerebral enough to play in the center of defense. The ups the man has are impressive, and he almost always times his leap perfectly, but the defensive know-how simply isn’t there for Heaps to play this position. Can you blame him though, changing positions this late in his career? Stevie Nicol needs reinforcements back there, it’s plain to see.
When it comes to blame, a myriad of reasons for the loss can be found. It was the third game in a little more than a week. Shalrie Joseph was on international duty with Grenada. It was a long flight. RSL isn’t a pushover anymore. It was hot as blazes in a city where you can’t even buy iced coffee, nevermind beer. But in soccer, you can never place all the blame on one factor. Now this crazy thing called modern life is a different story – you can blame a singular event for just about anything. George Bush was re-elected because my girlfriend didn’t vote. John Terry missed the penalty kick in the Champions League final because he’s paid too much. I crashed my first Jetta because my parents had me drive to school two days after wisdom teeth surgery and dumbed down by enough painkillers to scare Dr. Drew. Unresolved issues? You bet, I loved that damn car.