With head coach Jason Kreis serving a suspension, Real Salt Lake proved once again that they enjoy a home-field advantage at Rice-Eccles Stadium. RSL showed life, creativity and purpose in beating an FC Dallas squad that looks like a shell of the team they were three weeks ago.
The Hoops are winless in their past three after starting the season unbeaten in four. A shaky defense, FC Dallas’ problem last year, has resurfaced as an issue and Saturday’s loss to Real Salt Lake.
SBI Correspondents Scott McAllister and Casey Corcoran took in the action on Saturday and give us their takes on the match.
RSL shows hustle and skill in win against FC Dallas
By SCOTT McALLISTER
Soccer on sunny Saturdays is about as good as it gets, especially when Real Salt Lake wins. It wasn’t an overly beautiful victory against FC Dallas on Saturday, but it was three points all the same. Considering the crazy week leading up to the game included the suspension of head coach Jason Kreis, and the shipping off of Carey Tally to Chivas the positive result was more than welcome.
As most things have been for RSL this season it was a concerted team effort that led to the victory. Once again Javier Morales was producing offense for Salt Lake, but this time it wasn’t his pinpoint passes, it was his mad dog hustle and grit that created the first goal. It hardly ever gets old watching a player hustle and chase down loose balls. Every team needs players like this, and as long as you mix the hustle with a good balance of creative talent and skill you can have a great side. Morales has already shown this year that he possesses great talent – leading the team with four assists. By badgering the Dallas defense and putting himself in position to pick up the errant clearance from Dario Sala Morales showed his determination.
But, really isn’t that what head coach Jason Kreis looks for? A prerequisite to even be considered for a Kreis coached team is that you have a certain level of grit and work ethic. Kyle Beckerman is a great example of this type of player who works hard but is still creative and it’s paying off. He already has three goals in league play – five in all competitions – and he has the great ability to dictate the flow and tempo of the game in the middle of the park. Beckerman had a fine night against Dallas and was rewarded by getting a toe onto an Andy Williams chip for the RSL win.
Earlier in the week Kreis was suspended from the game against Dallas for making disparaging remarks about the league officiating to the press. Without Kreis on the sidelines the team lined up in a new formation using Jamison Olave, Matias Mantilla, and Nat Borchers as a three-man backline. This caused Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran to push up from their outside back roles and play more on the flanks as midfielders.
The plan seemed to be working okay. Dallas hadn’t forced many saves out of Nick Rimando before replacing Olave with Andy Williams in the 40th minute. Someone near me commented that it looked like an offensive move, pulling out a defender for a midfielder. However, if you watched as Williams trotted into position on the right wing Beltran and Wingert dropped back and resumed their normal positions as right backs and RSL were back to a traditional 4-4-2 formation. Looked more like a defensive move from my point of view.
Ironically, the midfield play was not clicking for RSL against Dallas. In most games this year Salt Lake has lived and died by the play in the center of the park, but the passes never seemed consistent, and their rhythm was often broken up before any kind of attack could be mounted. The inconsistency in possession in and of it self is not a good thing. What is positive is that RSL still found a way to win even though everything was not going as planned. The next test is to see if they can do the same thing on the road when they travel to Colorado on Thursday.
Cooper the lone bright spot for struggling FC Dallas
By CASEY CORCORAN
After two weeks of borderline anger at my own chosen team, I am going to try to focus on the positives that FC Dallas displayed in their loss to Real Salt Lake. Honestly, bleak writing just does not suit my own personal style at all.
Before I focus on a moment of brilliance, I must bring up Real Salt Lake’s playground. Real Salt Lake plays at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a stadium which coincidentally has both features which irk soccer fans to no end- football lines and artificial turf. Besides being poison on the eyes, games played on artificial turf are noticeably different. Balls bounce and move like they were pumped full of steroids. These issues are well documented within Major League Soccer so I will not harp on them too much, just figured it needed to be written, for my own sake.
On a different note from the last two weeks, something completely class raised its head, if only for a moment. Even if it was bad goaltending, Kenny Cooper unleashed a goal of the week, if not more. Chasing down a long through ball truckin’ down the highway of carpet grass, he one popped a right footed shot onto the inner part of the right upright, deflecting the ball across the goal into the net immediately behind the left upright. The ball never went further back then maybe a foot from the goal line.
To be honest, on re-watching the goal, I take back the earlier comment about bad goalkeeping. The shot was put so close to the V of the upright and crossbar that I doubt many keepers would ever have had a chance. While Cooper might have an odd objection to staying in the middle of the field, he still has a degree of class that reminds us why Manchester United originally picked him up. With five goals through seven games, any continued production from Cooper will ultimately lead to a much coveted pay raise and even national team consideration.
Kenny Cooper, besides the nagging positional problems, is a quintessential American package. By American package, I mean he has the qualities that Americans typically look for in a star. He has a very high work rate and drive, size and speed, and maybe most importantly, class. While it might happen, I can not think of a time Cooper flopped on his butt.
To prove I am not biased on that one, Ricardinho flopped multiple times just last week. Class Cooper displays not just on the field, but also off. During his long stint injured last year, Cooper won over many fans just by being around and using his personality. If ever there was an example of genuine, it would seem that Cooper has it. Time will only tell if he can become that star that the national team needs, but at least Cooper is a prospect at the Achilles heel of the USMNT, striker.
Hopefully for FCD fans, Cooper will continue his form and the rest of the team will find that spark displayed earlier in the season. This team will not win people over playing mediocre soccer.