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Newcomers take to Real Salt Lake approach
by Ridge Mahoney, August 21st, 2013 1AM
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[MLS: Playoff Push] Once again among the championship contenders, Real Salt Lake heads into the final part of the season atop the overall standings with 41 points yet embroiled in a tight playoff race.

REAL SALT LAKE:
Record: 12-8-5
First 10: 4-4-2
Last 10: 5-3-2

THE STORY SO FAR. RSL has adjusted well to the offseason departures of Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave (to New York) and Will Johnson (Portland). RSL reeled off a four-game win streak in June, one of only three such runs in the league this season.

RECENT MOVES. Coach Jason Kreis tweaked his usual diamond-midfield formation and went with a 4-3-3 system in a 1-0 defeat of Houston a week ago, but returned to the traditional diamond in the 4-2 loss to the Galaxy last weekend. Last month, RSL traded two draft picks to obtain defender Brandon McDonald from D.C. United, and signed forward Benji Lopez as a Homegrown Player. Kreis and owner Dell Loy Hansen have been discussing a new contract.

STYLE POINTS.  Youngster Olmes Garcia (20) and former Toronto FC attacker Joao Plata have taken to the RSL slick, technical approach. Veterans Alvaro Saborio (nine goals) and Javier Morales (eight assists) are the team leaders in those departments; Garcia (five goals) and Plata (six assists) are contributing. Robbie Findley (six goals) offers a speed threat. Midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy drive a functional yet creative midfield, and Nick Rimando is still top-notch in the nets.

NEEDS WORK. Robbie Keane, who lit up RSL with a hat trick last Saturday, can make any defender look ponderous, but there are recovery issues when centerbacks Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo or Chris Schuler are stretched apart. Late-game collapses like the one at New York (goals conceded in the 89th and 94th minute) aren’t typical of RSL teams.

FINAL ANSWER. All five playoff spots and the conference title are up for grabs, so does RSL smack down an upstart like Portland, which it plays three times starting Wednesday, or succumb to pressure with a less experienced squad?

REMAINING SCHEDULE:
August 21: @Portland
August 24: Columbus
August 30: Portland
September 13: @Seattle
September 21: San Jose
September 28: @Vancouver
October 1: D.C. United (Open Cup final)
October 5: FC Dallas
October 19: @Portland
October 23: Chivas USA

Playoff Push Series:
Chicago
Columbus
Houston
Montreal
New England
New York
Philadelphia
Portland
San Jose
Seattle
Sporting KC
Vancouver


1 comment
  1. John Ropp
    commented on: August 21, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
    The defense has been hammered with injuries, etc. and there have been very few games this season where the "starting 4" have been in the lineup, not to mention adjusting to the departure of Olave who was an integral part of the back 4. I'm not making excuses, but I think if the back line could gel together, RSL could cruise into and deep into the playoffs. Thank GOODNESS we have Rimando back in the net.

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