SALT LAKE CITY, Utah
7:30 pm MT (no TV)
Having started to somewhat find a scoring touch in recent games - they've hit for goals in back-to-back games after going more than six full games without one - Real Salt Lake is now looking to regain their winning ways, now nearly two months and seven games without a win. They entertain a MetroStars team that has undergone some fairly radical changes over the recent weeks. The installation of Alexi Lalas as general manager has been followed by the addition of MLS veterans - and strong personalities - in Ante Razov, Ryan Suarez and Tony Meola to the playing staff.
REFEREE: Kevin Terry. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): David Bragg; 4th: Baldomero Toledo
MLS Career: 108 games; FC/gm: 30.7; Y/gm: 2.9; R: 35; pens: 46
Games involving Real: first game
Games involving MetroStars: P24 W14 L7 T3; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 9; pens: 11
INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE - PROBABLE: DF Brian Dunseth (L ankle sprain); DF Rustin Pierce (L hamstring strain); FW Jason Kreis (influenza) ... METROSTARS - OUT: MF Youri Djorkaeff (R hamstring strain); DF Tim Ward (L hamstring strain); FW Abbe Ibrahim (L knee torn lateral meniscus); GK Mike Ueltschey (R finger fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Chris Corcoran (R hamstring strain); FW Ante Razov (posas bursitis)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: RSL: DF Eddie Pope (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
SUSPENDED: MET: MF Amado Guevara (through July 4)
WARNINGS: RSL: FW Jason Kreis (17 CP); MF Andy Williams (8 CP in 2 gms)
This is the second of the two meetings between the clubs in Real's inaugural season, the only one set for Salt Lake City.
Coaches record: John Ellinger v MET: P1 W0 L0 D1 ... Bob Bradley vs. RSL: P1 W0 L0 D1
ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Real 0 wins (0 shootout), 0 goals ... MetroStars 0 wins (0 shootout), 0 goals ... 1 draw
AT RICE-ECCLES STADIUM: first meeting
In their first-ever match in club history, Real Salt Lake went to Giants Stadium and came away with a scoreless draw against the MetroStars on April 2, the season opener for both teams.
An unbelievably difficult night greeted Real Salt Lake in their inaugural match. Torrential rain and winds gusting up to 48 miles per hour made passing almost impossible, not to mention any sort of cohesive play.
Still, Real goalkeeper D.J. Countess was the hero on the night with two tremendous saves, saving from Sergio Galvan Rey in the first half when the Colombian striker raced in alone on goal, and then a remarkable stop on John Wolyniec in the second half when he dove to turn away his downward header.
Here's Bob Bradley's team (4-2-3-1): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke, Jeff Agoos - Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi - Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara, Sergio Galvan Rey (Mike Magee 67) - John Wolyniec
Here's John Ellinger's team (4-3-1-2): D.J. Countess - Rusty Pierce, Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari, Matt Behncke - Dipsy Selolwane, Brian Kamler, Marlon Rojas (Luke Kreamalmeyer 72) - Andy Williams - Clint Mathis, Jason Kreis.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real 'keeper D.J. Countess did his share to keep the Fire off the board in the first half, but the home side eventually strolled out 3-1 winners.
The Fire couldn't break down Real until after the break, when Thiago finished with aplomb. A long ball found Chris Rolfe on the right, and he put in a low cross that found the Brazilian after a wonderful dummy from Nate Jaqua, Thiago hammering a high shot home (53).
But Real equalized nine minutes later with their second goal in as many matches after seeing their goalless streak end after an MLS record 557 minutes at midweek. After winning a free kick straight out from goal, Jason Kreis nearly tore the panels off the ball in driving it through a gap in the Fire wall from 25 yards, Chicago 'keeper Zach Thornton nearly overpowered by the blast.
Yet Chicago responded just seven minutes later, Jaqua flicking on a header into the Real area where Rolfe flipped it over a retreating defender with his first touch before slotting home past Countess.
Then two minutes from the end Herron completed the scoreline when an Ivan Guerrero pass out of midfield sent him in alone on the Real 'keeper, and he neatly sidestepped him before rolling the ball into the empty net.
Real head coach John Ellinger made one change to the team that played to a 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy the Wednesday before at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Clint Mathis returned from suspension, coming back into the team in midfield in place of Seth Trembly.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-1-3-2): D.J. Countess - Nelson Akwari (Seth Trembly 76), Cameron Knowles, Eddie Pope, Brian Kamler - Kenny Cutler - Andy Williams, Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis - Chris Brown (Dante Washington 80), Jamie Watson
"I thought collectively we did well the first half. Then we gave up a goal seven minutes again, but the final result is what counts. Everybody feels the same, but it's not like we were embarrassed or whatever else," Ellinger said. "We knew coming in that Chicago had had trouble late in the games here and so we had to stay in the game. The third goal doesn't bother me because at 2-1, you're pushing and pushing and you get countered and it always happens - it never fails."
Real Salt Lake saw their winless streak extended to seven matches, falling 3-1 to the Chicago Fire last Sunday at Soldier Field. Real are still in fifth place in the Western Conference with 12 points from 15 matches, two behind the fourth-place Colorado Rapids and six ahead of fellow expansion outfit Chivas USA, while trailing pace-setting FC Dallas by 21 points.
After the long goalless run, Real hit for a goal in a second consecutive game, after in answering the Chicago goal early in the half, Ellinger thought his team could come with a result.
I thought at 1-1, Jason had a great goal, and just thought that, yeah, OK, this is it. We got the goal, and we are at least going to get a result out of this. That's what went through my head on the sidelines anyway," Ellinger said. "Cameron [Knowles] on the second goal just should have cleared it over the back line. He tried to turn it upfield. You know, you just got to kick it away. Get it over the goal line, I don't care how, just get it out of there. The worst-case scenario happened, he kicked it right at [Chris] Rolfe and he was right there."
For Countess, the three goals came in his return to Chicago, for where he was selected by Real in the expansion draft. "Obviously it was a little disappointing. It's one of those nights where you think that you did everything you can and there was a lot of passion behind it for me. But credit the Chicago Fire for good organization. They're a good team - well coached, great players. They beat us tonight. They threw everything that had at us in the second half and they got the best of us."
Real acquired left back Paul Broome from the Los Angeles Galaxy during the week. He started 20 games a season ago and was one of Steve Sampson's first changes after taking over the Galaxy, but then became surplus to requirements with the addition of Todd Dunivant. To make room, RSL waived Trinidad & Tobago international Marlon Rojas.
On Wednesday, Real added defender Adolfo Gregorio to their roster. The rights to Gregorio were held by the Colorado Rapids, who selected him in the second round of the 2004 SuperDraft. Instead, the UCLA product went to England, where he scored two goals in 24 games with fourth-tier Darlington. In exchange, Real sent a permanent youth international slot and a first round pick in the 2007 supplemental draft.
The Revolution won for the second consecutive match after seeing their season-opening unbeaten streak snapped while the MetroStars saw their five-game unbeaten run come to a crashing halt.
Jose Cancela gave the Revolution the lead after just 21 seconds, hitting a looping volley over Zach Wells from all of 35 yards.
But midway through the second half the MetroStars took the lead with goals within two minutes. First Youri Djorkaeff converted from the penalty spot after Andy Dorman had bowled over Sergio Galvan Rey from behind (67), then Galvan Rey tapped home with a simple finish after Eddie Gaven was set free on the right to drive a low cross into the goalmouth (69).
Yet it took the Revolution just three minutes to respond, Jay Heaps rising up at the near post to pound home a clear header from a corner kick, then four minutes from the end the Revolution took advantage of a dreadful mistake for the match-winner, Steve Ralston dispossessing Metro defender Jeff Parke in his own area before curling a perfectly placed shot inside the far post.
New England sealed the match in stoppage time (91+), a long ball from Avery John finding Pat Noonan running free just the other side of the halfway line, and after one touch he hit a long floater that caught Wells well off his line.
MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley made one change to the team that defeated the Columbus Crew 3-2 the previous Saturday at Crew Stadium. Ante Razov was slowed by injury, so Sergio Galvan Rey came into partner Youri Djorkaeff in attack in his place.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Jeff Agoos, Jeff Parke, Tim Regan - Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi - Mike Magee (Eddie Gaven 65), Amado Guevara - Youri Djorkaeff (Seth Stammler 88), Sergio Galvan Rey
"It's a hard (loss), because we fought back to get the lead and we never had a chance to digest it all before we were back in a 2-2 game. It was nice to see the push to get back into the game after an early goal, but disappointing not to finish the job," Bradley said. " ... They scored on their first kick of the ball and then we came back to take the lead and they were able to score the second goal by finding a small gap off of a corner. The third one is a giveaway. I still thought that generally speaking the coordination of the back four was OK. I felt like we held down their number of chances, but at the same time made a number of critical mistakes."
The MetroStars lost for the first time since May 25, the New England Revolution answering a quick second-half double with a three-goal flurry of their own in a 4-2 win at Gillette Stadium last Saturday. The MetroStars currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points from 14 matches, two behind the third-place Kansas City Wizards and one ahead of D.C. United for the final playoff place.
It was the first loss for the MetroStars since a 1-0 loss at Kansas City on May 25. Since, the MetroStars had scored 10 goals in five games, while allowing five. They had the best defense in the league statistically before the four goals scored by New England.
"You can't say it's a good game. How we played for the first 70 minutes, from the first half to the second half, it was fantastic. We came here to play the best team in the league. We played like we wanted it, we created many chances in defense and midfield, we got a great goal to get back in the game, great movement," Djorkaeff said. "The second goal we scored, after starting to miss some passes, New England played better and we lost the game. We must learn the game is 90 minutes."
On Thursday, the MetroStars finally completed their acquisition of goalkeeper Tony Meola. Meola was not re-signed by the Kansas City Wizards after last season, and after clearing procedural waivers, was signed by the Metros.
"We're bringing in a three-time World Cup veteran, an MLS champion, a league MVP, an American soccer legend and a local soccer legend," MetroStars President and General Manager Alexi Lalas said. "But I think Tony realizes, and Bob and myself made it very clear, that after all the handshakes, the hugs and the kisses are over with, we have a job to do...we're here to win a championship."
Meola, who has been training with the Metros for the past four days in anticipation of being picked up by the club, said he is about "85-90 percent" healthy following Achilles surgery in January. He said he should be 100 percent in about a month. "If I had to play tomorrow, I think I could," he said. "Soccer-wise, I'm a bit ahead of schedule but fitness, I still need to have more fitness. But it's what I expected, being off for six months."
Ironically, the move comes after the worst game of the season for Zach Wells, the second-year 'keeper who's held the job since the start of the season. "Every game is a new mountain to climb. I can take something new from every game. This is the first time I've played this many games in MLS. I continue to learn the good and the bad from every game. I'm just trying to keep a little perspective and keeping improving on my game," he said.