REAL SALT LAKE v KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
RICE-ECCLES STADIUM, Salt Lake City, Utah
7 p.m. MT (no TV)
May 20, 2006 (WEEK 8) / MLS Game #46
For the first time in nine months, Real Salt Lake are trying to build a winning streak, their victory last weekend ending an MLS-record winless run in the first-ever road victory in club history. They return home to play host to a Kansas City Wizards team on the road for a second consecutive week without their trio of World Cup contributions, having fallen out of top spot in the Eastern Conference with a loss at D.C. United last weekend.
REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Anthony Vasoli; 4th: Feliciano Palomino
MLS Career: 20 games; FC/gm: 28.5; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 5; pens: 4
MLS 2006: 1 game; FC/gm: 33.0 (avg: 31.3); Y/gm: 5.0 (avg: 3.83); R: 0 (MLS: 8); pens: 0 (MLS: 10)
Games involving Real: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 20.0; Y/gm: 1.0; R: 0; pens: 0
Games involving Wizards: P3 W1 L1 T1; FC/gm: 23.7; Y/gm: 2.3; R: 1; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: DF Paul Broome (L ankle internal derangement); MF Seth Trembly (L knee ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Danny Torres (L popliteal strain) ... KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - NONE REPORTED
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: KC: Josh Wolff, Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Johnson (USA, 2006 World Cup) ... RSL: Eddie Pope (USA; 2006 World Cup); Douglas Sequeira (Costa Rica; 2006 World Cup)
This is the first of two league meetings between the clubs, the only one scheduled to take place on the Wasatch Front this season. Their lone Arrowhead Stadium encounter is set for Sept. 30.
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Real 0 wins (0 shootout), 4 goals ... Wizards 2 wins (0 shootout), 7 goals ... 0 draws
AT RICE-ECCLES: (1 meeting): Real 0 wins (0 shootout), 2 goals ... Wizards 1 win (0 shootout), 4 goals ... 0 draws
LAST YEAR (MLS)
A year ago, the Wizards won both meetings between the teams in Real's expansion season, though the contests did not lack for excitement, the clubs combining for 11 goals in their two encounters.
Coaches record: John Ellinger v KC: P2 W0 L2 D0 ... Bob Gansler vs. RSL: P2 W2 L0 D0
7/16: KC 3, RSL 2 (Sealy 8, 27; own goal 18 - Brown 10; Cila 44)
8/13: RSL 2, KC 4 (Cila 63; Kreis 72 - Victorine 8, 86; Sealy 52; Klein 56)
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake won for the first time ever on their travels, their victory also ending a record winless run as they defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 last Saturday at The Home Depot Center. Real moved into a tie for fifth place in Western Conference with four points from seven points, level with Chivas USA (who have played two fewer matches), three behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and Colorado Rapids and 11 behind first-place FC Dallas.
In their expansion 2005 season, RSL went 0-14-2 on the road, adding three losses in three away matches this season. But that record - and the club's MLS-record 18-game winless mark, dating back to August of last season - all ended as they extended the Galaxy's club-record winless streak on their home ground.
Real Salt Lake came in with just a single point from their six matches this season, while the Galaxy hadn't won in three home matches this season - their four-game home winless run dating to the final game of last season the longest in club history, since going three home games without a victory in both the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
But Atiba Harris got the visitors off to a good start, latching onto to a free kick driven to the top of the area by Carey Talley, spinning around Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall and slipping a shot past Kevin Hartman to put Real in the lead after 17 minutes.
A series of spurned chances left the Galaxy with the opportunity to put on another comeback, but two goals from substitute Jeff Cunningham in the final 18 minutes ended that and sealed the victory for Real.
First, Chris Klein set Talley free down the right flank, and he and Cunningham raced in alone on Hartman, Talley sliding the ball across goal for Cunningham to tap in the 72nd minute. Then three minutes from the end, Jason Kreis looped a ball over the Galaxy defense for Cunningham to bring in alone, and after he rounded Hartman at the top of the box he rolled the ball into the unguarded goal.
RSL head coach John Ellinger made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Columbus Crew the weekend before. Eddie Pope and Douglas Sequeira were both away on international duty, replaced by Kevin Novak and Daniel Torres, while Jason Kreis came back into the team in place of Jeff Cunningham in attack.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Scott Garlick - Kevin Novak, Nelson Akwari, Daniel Torres, Willis Forko - Chris Klein, Kenny Cutler, Carey Talley, Mehdi Ballouchy - Jason Kreis, Atiba Harris (Jeff Cunningham 69). [Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno, Chris Brown, Christian Jimenez, Jay Nolly, Jamie Watson, Andy Williams]
"Obviously it's been pent-up frustration, you're asking yourself why, it's unfair, and a variety of things go through your head," said Ellinger. "But the bottom line is I believed in these guys from the beginning. I thought we had a good team this year, and I'm hoping we can get something going.
A new sensation came over Real Salt Lake after the Galaxy match. For the first time in franchise history, the club won a road match, and at least one member of the club was in awe.
"It's definitely a relief," Ellinger said. "I don't know what it feels like to get on an airplane coming back from one of these things [a road win], so I'll let you know tomorrow afternoon, I guess. It was a relief for everyone. I told the players before the game that if I had to do it all over again, I'd still pick them all again, given the opportunity. We've got to believe in each other and it worked out."
Making it to the break with the lead was of great importance, Ellinger said. "It was the first time in our existence that we had a lead at halftime on the road. It was a different feeling. Getting from that goal to halftime for us was a monumental moment."
Ellinger said the defense in particular grew stronger with every passing minute. RSL held an opponent scoreless for the first time since a 3-0 win against FC Dallas last July 23.
"The back four got better as the game went on," Ellinger said. "Kevin (Novak) did great at right back. Willis (Forko) continues to prove his worth at left back and Danny (Torres) and Nelson (Akwari) did their business in the second half. Defensively, no complaints."
The end of the match also surprised Ellinger. Cunningham, who was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season, came into the match in the 69th minute and ended up with two match-sealing goals - and MLS Player of the Week honors. "I thought we were going to battle through it 1-0 and battle through some tough restarts in the end of the game," Ellinger said.
For the first time in nine months, RSL is now aiming at winning back-to-back games. Their last victory before Saturday night was on the back end of two consecutive wins, Aug. 6, 2005 2-1 v Chivas USA, which followed a 3-0 win v FC Dallas.
"To be honest, we've played better games than that," said Talley to the Deseret Morning News. "It just goes to show that you don't have to play great to win. Yeah, it was a great effort, but we can play better. It just shows what happens when we finish our opportunities."
Also helping matters will be that the next three games for Real are at home, the Wizards match followed by meetings with Colorado and Chicago.
"That game was first off for ourselves, we went out and outworked that team tonight and scored three goals on them," said Talley. "And then it was for the people of Salt Lake. They've stood by us, and we came out and produced on the road, and now we've got to go home and do the same thing for the fans at home."
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Kansas City Wizards lost for the second time on the season in another top-of-the-table clash, this time a 2-1 loss to D.C. United in a meeting of the Eastern Conference's two top clubs at RFK Stadium last weekend. The Wizards fell to second place in the East with 13 points from seven matches, now one behind United.
The teams combined for three goals in the opening quarter of the match, before United held on to move back in front of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference table.
A stunning goal from Alecko Eskandarian gave the home side the lead on 12 minutes. Jaime Moreno pulled the ball back to Christian Gomez in the restraining arc, and he floated a sublime chip to Eskandarian on the left side of the penalty area. Eskandarian hit the ball with a thundering volley that smashed off the inside the post and hit the back of the net with such force it flashed back out onto the field.
The teams then traded penalties seven minutes apart. Freddy Adu held back Ryan Pore as the young Wizards forward tried to round him near the byeline, and Sasha Victorine sent Troy Perkins the wrong way for the equalizer. But seven minutes later United once again nosed in front, Moreno converting from the spot after Eskandarian was bundled over by rookie fullback Matt Groenwald.
Despite missing three starters to World Cup duty with the U.S. national team, the Wizards had their share of opportunities to again pull level - none moreso than the empty net that greeted Scott Sealy in the 37th minute - the visitors could not find the leveller.
Wizards boss Bob Gansler made three changes to the team that played to a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire the weekend before - all to national team duty, as Jimmy Conrad, Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff all left to join the USA for World Cup preparation. Matt Groenwald returned to the back four, while Ryan Pore was given his first start of 2006, coming in with Scott Sealy to join the three-pronged Wizards attack.
Here's Gansler's team (4-3-3): Bo Oshoniyi - Matt Groenwald (Jermaine Hue 84), Nick Garcia, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr. - Jack Jewsbury (Alex Zotinca 70), Kerry Zavagnin, Sasha Victorine - Ryan Pore (Yura Movsisyan 64), Scott Sealy, Davy Arnaud [Substitutes Not Used: Will Hesmer, Ryan Raybould, Tyson Wahl, Lance Watson]
"I think this was an even game - if this winds up to be a tie on the scoreboard or we win by one, I think that would have been just as well," Gansler said. "But I thought we played pretty well, we played forward. The way you play D.C. is not to try and defend, [but] it's to try to attack them. And the guys held to that thinking and we cleared a lot of opportunities and they were fortunate twice and we were fortunate once."
The Wizards have been hurt more than any other team by World Cup absences, with their three players off to Germany with the USA.
"We've been without those three and Kerry Zavagnin for 80 percent of the year - we've played games in Florida and Germany, and only Eddie's played in all six games for us," said Gansler. "The expectations are for us not only to survive but to thrive. We've got a bunch of players that are more than capable and extremely anxious to make their mark."
Of course, two of the three are starting forwards in Wolff and Johnson. But Gansler wasn't concerned.
"Scott Sealy is itching, and he scored nine goals in this league last year. He's not as sharp because he hasn't had the repetitions," Gansler said. "Ryan Pore will make his way, Yura Movsisyan will make his way, and we have others. We didn't dwell on, and we never dwell on, who we don't have."
But after his penalty conversion, Sasha Victorine leads the club in scoring from his midfield spot.
"It's funny, I just try to do what I can to help the team and obviously I'd rather get more assists than goals. If I'm getting all the goals then obviously there's a problem, so for me it would be nice to get some assists. It would be nice to get more assists and get the guys involved, get them more opportunities," he said. "You know, we have opportunities to be able to score. Right now, it's just things are not falling in the back of the net for us. It'll happen, there will come a time when we'll see that little change and we'll start putting things away."
The Wizards were also pleased with how close they came to coming away with a result in a difficult place to play. "But at the end of the day, we can keep our heads up and get ready for Salt Lake (next Saturday)," said goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi. "Yeah, we have a depleted roster, but that's not an excuse. We have a good team, and a lot of good players that can get the job done. I think we showed that tonight, that we can stay with any team in the league. We're going to go out to Salt Lake and get a result there."
Said Victorine: "Overall I think we were positive. I think a lot of guys proved to themselves and to the team that they can play. We've just got to keep building on that. This is probably one of the harder stadiums to come in and play. There's not a lot of tougher ones for guys playing their first games. It's a tough environment and a good experience."