By Ethan Gomberg
20,415 packed into Rio Tinto Stadium on a beautiful night for soccer, expecting a demolishing of weak-sided Chivas USA by their 2005 powerhouse brethren. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Former RSL assistant and now Chivas head coach Robin Fraser had his side in a defensive 4-5-1 to take advantage of the RSL four man diamond midfield. Apparently Fraser’s long years of working at RSL skipper Jason Kreis’s side really shined tonight. After the match, Fraser said “The place that the win took place is much less significant than the win. We started out the season playing pretty well and not having any results to show for it. Tonight we had to come to what is arguably the hardest place to play in the league and these guys just fought, gritted and gutted out a victory.”
Early on Chivas was playing very tight, with some nice passing and intent on using the counter when it suited them. Real Salt Lake however seemed to be playing slightly disorganized in the first 20 minutes and decidingly very un-RSL like of them. RSL’s midfielder Javier Morales said of RSL’s play “I think we have to relax a little bit. We were a little nervous playing the ball and I think we have to relax and take more time.”
Within the first part of the half referee Mark Kadlecik made some unusual calls, seemingly very anti-RSL. On one particular play when RSL had the free kick outside the box, they quickly took it, resulting in a goal. But hold on, said the man in the middle, and Kadlecik called the goal back. He said that RSL had called for 10 yards and RSL captain Kyle Beckerman inappropriately took the free kick while referee was placing the Chivas defenders. Beckerman claims he did not call for 10 yards. According to MLS rules, unless the player actually asks for 10 yards the referee isn’t suppose to give it. Obviously the referee’s call stands. But from a RSL perspective, and considering the result of the match, it hurts a lot. Also since MLS has placed greater focus on referee accountability and training, this one will stand out.
Dangerous corners from Chivas made up the middle part of the 1st half. Chivas’s Ryan Smith and rookie Casey Townsend were fairly impressive up top but had no shots to show for it in the first 45.
Chivas tried a few times to build up on the right with Smith and new defender James Riley but it never seemed to link up as expected. RSL’s craftiness on a few counters were strong, however it is interesting to note that like Chivas skipper Fraser, Chivas defender Raushan McKenzie is also a former RSL player and had a major hand snuffing out a few RSL chances.
A tussle in the 44th between Velasquez and Smith ended with Smith on the ground, with Velasquez standing over him in defiance. However Smith got called for the foul and Chivas midfielder Oswaldo Minda with a yellow. These types of experiences are what will endear the rookie Velasquez to the RSL faithful.
After the half, Kreis brought in both forward Alvaro Saborio and Morales, giving the two usual starters the most time on the field this season (45+ minutes). Morales made some big moves quickly to start off the half but Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy was there to stop them. The Latin mix of Morales, Saborio and forward Fabian Espindola added a lot of energy to RSL’s attack but they were unable to get goals through with their chances. Apparently Kennedy was on his A game tonight and he would captain his defense to a clean sheet.
Saborio said after the game “We have to stay positive and keep working. We played good today and just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Everything seemed to be going Chivas’s way. Even when Chiva’s defender Heath Pierce went out with an injury and Chivas USA was down a man, they were dictating the tempo and were pushing up in the offensive third against RSL. Finally it was Chivas that broke through on a cross from Chiva’s Nick LaBrocca in the 72′ minute when Townsend nailed a mishandling of the ball by Rimando, who had collided with RSL defender Chris Schuler.
Townsend said of the goal “It felt really good. Obviously the first goal always feels good and I had been waiting for that for a long time. I’m just glad that it helped us win.”
RSL keeper Rimando said “You go for the ball if the cross is in your area, and if there’s contact, there’s contact. That’s the sport. There’s no excuse or anything like that. Unfortunately the ball came out of my hands and bounced right to [Casey Townsend].”
Chivas did a nice job of time management. Many RSL fans would think that they were watching a certain CCL match against Panamanian opposition. RSL might have come back later when Olave found a battling Espindola who nicely sent it to Saborio who almost brilliantly chipped it over a rushing Kennedy but it hit the top post and missed the net once again.
With time running out RSL put the pedal to the floor and had 5 corners in the last 2 minutes, putting everything on the field but to no avail, they could not find the promise land. The game e
nded 1-0 in the visitors favor.
RSL starts over against Portland away next Saturday. RSL’s Kreis said of the upcoming match-ups “I think we’ve got some guys now that started in the first two games and have to feel good about their contribution and have a little bit of experience under their belts. That should put us in a good position for the next three matches.”
Next Saturday and Chivas hosts Sporting KC at home.
REAL SALT LAKE 0 : 1 CHIVAS USA
SATURDAY, MARCH 24, 2012
RIO TINTO STADIUM – SANDY, UT
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
RSL Chris Schuler 12
CHV Oswaldo Minda 46
CHV Peter Vagenas 55
CHV Casey Townsend 86
CHV Dan Kennedy 93
Real Salt Lake – Rimando; Beltran, Olave, Schuler, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Velasquez Morales, 45), Gil (Steele,71); Paulo (Saborio, 45), Espindola
Reynish, Borchers, Alvarez, Bonfigli
Coach Jason Kreis
Chivas- Kennedy; Jazic, Pearce McKenzie, Riley; Vagenas (Zemanski, 67), Minda, Courtois (Romero 80), LaBrocca, Smith (Gordon,74’),; Townsend
Melia;, Valencia; Moreno, Bolanos
Coach Robin Fraser