Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake vs. Chicago Fire Report Card
Real Salt Lake looked like it might bounce back just fine from the CD United debacle last week, taking the field with confidence and composure Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Chicago Fire, one of the East's worst teams. But oh how quickly things can change on a soccer pitch. By the 11th minute Chicago had scored and RSL captain Kyle Beckerman had been ejected for a bone-headed forearm shiver on Chicago's Daniel Paladini. RSL played the victim the rest of the night and never regained enough composure to really challenge Chicago on its own home field while the Fire's Marco Pappa followed in the footsteps of Dwayne De Rosario from last week and bagged a hat-trick. Oh, and by the way, a guy named Javier Morales took the field for the first time since May 4th after rehabbing a broken leg and dislocated ankle. An inauspicious return for RSL's star midfielder.
Nick Rimando had two fine saves in the first half and a couple in the second half but sadly saw three find their way to the back of his net due to an uncharacteristically porous back line. With one possible save getting past him - Pappa's second, (granted, it would have probably made save of the week had he made it), there's not much else he did wrong. This one can be pinned undoubtedly on poor defending in the final third and a 10 man team (despite what fans might have thought of the officiating). Grade: B+
Robbie Russell struggled the first half, getting caught ball watching on Chicago's first goal and struggling to keep up with Chicago's speedy right side. Jason Kreis had seen enough by halftime and subbed him out in favor of the fresh legs of Chris Schuler. Too bad Schuler proved to be no better at stopping the Chicago onslaught. Grade: C+
Jamison Olave got caught without inside help when in the 10th minute Kyle Beckerman broke off his man to double team the ball. He was too slow both on and off the double-team and ended up leaving Olave in a 2-on-1 situation that Chicago played perfectly to give Marco Pappa his first goal of the night. Besides the one goal scored against him, Olave was his typical solid presence, and was especially strong in the air on Chicago goal kicks and the few over the top tries by the fire. Grade: B
Nat Borchers couldn't seem to catch a break Wednesday night. He played with his typical composure for all but one play - the one that gave Chicago their insurance goal. It happened in the 28th minute when he was caught thinking for a half-second too long, giving Chicago midfielder Marco Pappas just enough room to get a shot off that Nick Rimando once again had little chance of stopping. To be fair, Nat was forced into this almost impossible position due to poor marking on the Right line by Chris Wingert and an out of position Yordany Alvarez in the midfield. Grade: B
Chris Wingert played with a massive cast on his left arm. Despite hampering his one try at a throw in, it didn't seem to bother him… Unless that's the reason he failed to mark Marco Pappa in front of the goal in the 28th minute to leave Nat Borchers alone with too little time to close the gap on the charging Fire midfielder who ended up scoring his second goal of the night. It wasn't his only failure at marking around the 40 yard mark and Chicago seemed to find ample opportunities all night along the right side to get off too many dangerous crosses and shots. Grade: C+
Andy Williams didn't have much gas left in the tank by the 70th minute since he'd let his engine run at full throttle every minute beforehand and seemed to be everywhere on the right side of the midfield, challenging every ball and somehow finding most of the Chicago midfield going to ground at one time or another in his wake. Bama's only knock Wednesday night comes from having left nothing in the tank for the final 20 minutes. Grade: A-
Kyle Beckerman showed "a complete lack of discipline," said Jason Kreis when asked about his ejection in the 11th minute. Kyle's passion is one of his greatest assets but Wednesday night he let it get the better of him and charged Chicago midfielder Daniel Paladini to the ground after Paladini shoved him from behind. "When this group doesn't have it's back against the wall they seem to relax," Kreis said referring to the constricting affect of Kyle's red card on the team. Kreis told the media Kyle made no excuses to him and took full responsibility for his actions and the results of the game. Regardless, this is not the time for their captain to lose his cool on what should have been a resurgent RSL team aiming for home field in the playoffs. Grade: F
Luis Gil was pulled in the 14th minute to make way for defensive midfielder Yordany Alvarez to fill in for the missing Beckerman. He saw too little time for a grade. Grade: Incomplete
Will Johnson was the canary in the coal mine for Real Salt Lake Wednesday night, showing most clearly that a sense of tenseness had overtaken the entire team. The drive and effort Real fans have come to expect from the feisty Canadian were there, but as soon as Real were down to 10 men he slipped past the point of diminishing returns and made a number of uncharacteristic passing mistakes in addition to overrunning defenders on and off the ball, especially near the end of the game when he was clearly playing on fumes. Grade: B
Fabian Espindola had fans wondering if he might not be the second Real player to be shown the exit when he contributed to the chippiness of the first half by engaging Chicago defender Dan Gargan in a shoving match. Somewhat surprisingly Fabian not only settled down but turned out to be one of the calmer influences on the team the rest of the game, going about his business winning balls down the left side and even creating a couple of decent scoring chances, one on his own and another to his striking companion Alvaro Saborio. Unfortunately there just wasn't enough substance on the field behind him to create many more opportunities or Real might have made Wednesday night more of a match. Grade: B+
Alvaro Saborio missed his best opportunity of the first half in the 28th minute with a slow second touch in front of an empty goal that allowed chicago's defense to close quickly enough to throw off his shot which went wide left. To his credit, Saborio found a couple more chances with the help of the likes of Andy Williams and Fabian Espindola to challenge the Chicago defense but the lack of solid support meant these were fewer than usual and less often than needed. Grade: B+
Yordany Alvarez struggled to establish the kind of player he wanted to be Wednesday night. Showing composure when he had the ball but playing too soft defensively to keep Chicago from dominating the mid and final third of the field. Jason Kreis pointed out specifically to the press how Alvarez left his position to cheat into the passing lane rather than falling back to a preventative position, leaving Pappa too much space and Nat Borchers too little time to transition over and make the play that might have stopped the second goal. Grade: C+
Chris Schuler seemed to bring a sense of stability to the left side when he was subbed in for Robbie Russel at half-time. Unfortunately for Real, it proved to be a false sense of stability as he lost his footing after leaning too much into his mark in the 75th minute to allow who else, Marco Pappa, to gallop down the right sideline and chip the ball over Nick Rimando for an unassisted third goal to complete his hat trick. Grade: C
Javier Morales was called onto the pitch in the 60th minute to replace Chris Wingert. He went on to a standing ovation and roaring packed crowd who'd come to cheer their superstar back to the game. His first touch was a free kick that went dangerously into the box for a near header goal by Fabian Espindola. He was admittedly rusty and a little timid on defensive challenges during the final 30 minutes but there were moments - a fake here, a free kick there - that reminded us of the impact he can have on a game and on this team. Grade: B
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