Real Salt Lake may not be able to do anything but lose on the road, but the Utah club has found far more comfortable surroundings when it plays at home.
RSL remained unbeaten at Rice-Eccles Stadium with its 3-1 handling of San Jose on Saturday. Javier Morales and Robbie Findley spear-headed an attack in a match that wasn’t the prettiest to watch. Ugly matches have become the norm for the Earthquakes, which saw its defense give up countless quality chances against RSL.
SBI Correspondents Scott McAllister and Kevin Matthiessen watched the match and shared their views with us.
No place like turf for RSL
By Scott McAllister
I’m going to leave the clichés about home and how wonderful it is to a young girl and her red ruby slippers that she clicks together while trying to get back to her farm in Kansas. Real Salt Lake are obviously that attached to playing at altitude on a plastic surface.
Still unbeaten at home, RSL continue their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide season of highs and lows. At least the highs are at home, right? At least what the fans see in person is something exciting and sends them home happy. What RSL supporter couldn’t be happy about the performance on Saturday? There were three great goals and a very solid showing from Nick Rimando and the defense.
Before I go any further I want to clarify that I realize it was not a perfect outing. There is plenty that RSL needs to work on, but I’m sure that those topics will be better suited for the next time the team loses. And if history is any indicator that will be in a couple weeks when they visit Chivas. For now, let’s savor the flavor of the victory.
After Javiar Morales’ penalty was blocked in the opening minutes, I thought for a bit that RSL’s home luck had come to end. There were a few moments of panic that I envisioned a complete collapse from Salt Lake and then San Jose would take over. These thoughts dissipated quickly, and the saved penalty was nearly forgotten by the end of the first half.
The start of the second half was everything that the Salt Lake crowd could have wanted. Robbie Findley slashing through the San Jose defense and then burying a fantastic low strike inside the near post. Then it was Findley’s devastated pass sent diagonally through the San Jose defense that led to Morales’ redemption goal. Dema Kovalenko’s penalty put a nice cap on the match.
It wouldn’t be a typical Real Salt Lake game unless they conceded a goal in the final ten minutes. John Cunliffe, who bagged at brace at Rice-Eccles last year while visiting with Chivas, provided that goal for San Jose. He nearly snagged a second for San Jose, which would have made the game truly interesting. Luckily his second shot missed the target.
The first half of this home stand turned out well, with the next challenge arriving Saturday in the form of the Kansas City Wizards. I’ll be bullish and say that RSL can take the Wizards, who couldn’t buy a league win during the month of May. It will be a great opportunity for RSL to string together sting together an actual winning streak for the first time this season.
Another loss, another struggle for San Jose bright spots
By KEVIN MATTHIESSEN
At about the 81st minute I got to wondering, "What’s better, being shutout and losing by two or three goals, or scoring once or more and being blown out by four or more goals?"
As Earthquakes fans I think we’ll take the latter. Goals sure have been hard to come by this season, and on Saturday night at least we got to watch our team score. New boy John Cunliffe provided that for us ten minutes into his substitute appearance with a left footed frozen rope to Nick Rimando’s near post.
Prior to Cunliffe coming into the game, I can’t say whether the ‘Quakes had nary a shot on goal. He provided a bit of spark and hopefully earned himself more time on the pitch. He’s scored one goal so far in only 50 minutes worth of playing time. Looking at his stats, he scored three goals in 494 minutes. With all the time Yallop’s given the unproven Kei Kamara, I hope he also gives Cunliffe some time to prove himself.
Joe Cannon made a nice penalty kick save in only the second minute of the game which provided the only other highlight of the game. There’s always a worry that a parried penalty kick will get struck in by an onrushing attacker but Cannon was able to pounce on his rebound to keep the score even at zeros early in the match.
One must now dig deeper to find positives in an overall flat performance by the visiting team. It was good to see Kelly Gray step on the field in a San Jose jersey. I though he played well despite only garnering a few minutes of playing time. He got a shot off and though high and wide, at least it was a shot.
Still digging. Amidst the layer of clay underground there was a bit of tenacity shown by Joe Vide. Sure his passing is second rate but it was somewhat enjoyable to see a player step up and intercept a pass or two. Now if we could only make one central midfielder out of Ned Grabavoy, Ramiro Corralles, and Vide, we’d have the perfect player: "Lining up in the middle of the park for the ‘Quakes today is Jose Ramiro Grabavide."