Matt Gade, Deseret News
Real Salt Lake held its home opener Saturday, ending in a tie with the Los Angeles Galaxy. This was after the boys from Salt Lake beat LA 1-0 off a Joao Plata goal and a Rimando PK save in their season opener in Los Angeles on March 8.
RSL started things off in fine fashion Saturday with Plata linking up with Alavro Saborio for his first goal of the season in the 28th minute. LA's Robbie Keane equalized in the 34th minute and the division rivals played to a stalemate the rest of the game to end with a 1-1 tie.
Nick Rimando continues to be one of Major League Soccer's top goal keepers, already producing season highlights like his PK save against LA's Keane in the first game of the season to keep RSL's 1-0 win. He found himself dealing with a two-on-two break-away situation, with Keane getting shielded by RSL's own Chris Schuler as Keane sent a shot millimeters inside the left post. Rimando went relatively unchallenged the rest of the game. His passing out of the box was not his usual perfection, creating a couple of uncomfortable moments for his defensive line.
Tactics: Schuler returned to the pitch Saturday, adding veteran savvy to the backline, which should produce a better defensive shape than RSL displayed at San Jose the previous week.
Tony Beltran looked like a child next to the 6'5" Rob Friend. Good thing the majority of his time was spent either pushing RSL's attacks up the right wing or tracking back against the likes of Juninho and Stefan Ishizaki, who he was able to contain relatively well.
Nat Borchers was RSL's last line of defense several times Saturday. He played the combo of Keane and Rob Friend quite well, especially given their penchant for slashing diagonal runs through the box. That and the fact that Friend is perhaps the largest forward Borchers will defend all year.
Chris Schuler was solid against LA's two strong strikers. His shielding defense in the 34th minute was about as good as he could do in a 1-on-1 situation, but Keane got a shot past him that somehow found its way past the goal post to give LA an equalizing goal.
Chris Wingert tapped his chest after Robbie Keane's equalizing goal in the 34th minute, taking full responsibility for losing the ball in LA's 3rd of the field. A charging Juninho picked his pocket and found Keane steaking up the field, 1-on-1 with Schuler who played a good angle, but Keane was able to thread-the-needle to beat the big back and Rimando.
Tactics: With Javier Morales healthy, Coach Jeff Cassar returned to the midfield diamond combination that worked so well in the final games of 2013 with Luis Gil, Morales, Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy teaming up. It looks like Cassar plans to continue playing the narrow diamond Jason Kreis became known for, leaving room for his able defensive wings to give attacking service along the flanks.
Luis Gil found himself struggling a little to emerge from the pack as LA's defenders attacked the midfield relentlessly, hoping to disturb RSL's fabled possession game. Gil did better in the second half to find an inch of shooting space in the 56th minute when his goal-bound shot was saved by a fingernail by LA's 'keeper Brian Perk.
Javier Morales felt a little rusty in Saturday's match. His touch was fine, but his on and off the ball had trouble kicking into a higher gear.
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