SALT LAKE CITY, Utah
7:30 pm MT (FSC; FSN-SW)
Real Salt Lake return home as they get ever closer to again having a full squad available, the expansion club now having gone 11 games in a row in all competitions without a victory, with eight losses in their last 10 league encounters. They take on an FC Dallas club that still leads the Western Conference despite a desperately disappointing loss in their last match, allowing the tying goal in the final minute and the winner in stoppage time in a battle of the league's best with the New England Revolution.
REFEREE: Erich Simmons. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Anthony Vasoli; 4th: Michael Kennedy
MLS Career: 14 games; FC/gm: 34.1; Y/gm: 4.2; R: 7; pens: 2
Games involving Real: first game
Games involving FC Dallas: P4 W3 L0 T1; FC/gm: 36.0; Y/gm: 4.8; R: 1; pens: 1
INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE - PROBABLE: DF Paul Broome (L ankle sprain); DF Rustin Pierce (R hamstring strain); GK D.J. Countess (L shoulder sprain) ... FC DALLAS - OUT: MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: FW Eddie Johnson (R toe stress-related injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: RSL: DF Eddie Pope (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup) ... DAL: DF Greg Vanney (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
WARNINGS: RSL: Jason Kreis (17 CP) ... DAL: MF Ronnie O'Brien (18 CP); MF Simo Valakari (20 CP)
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Real 0 wins, 0 goals ... FC Dallas 2 wins, 5 goals ... 0 draws
AT RICE-ECCLES (1 meeting): Real 0 wins, 0 goals ... FC Dallas 1 win, 2 goals ... 0 draws
This is the third meeting between the clubs, the second of two in Salt Lake City. Real will make their first trip to the Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Center on Sept. 18 in the final league meeting set for this year
Coaches record: John Ellinger v DAL: P2 W0 L2 D0 ... Colin Clarke vs. RSL: P2 W2 L0 D0
FC Dallas has won both of the initial meetings between these two teams, once at each ground, a 3-0 win in Big D on April 23 then a 2-0 victory in the last meeting on June 4 on the Wasatch Front.
At the Cotton Bowl, FC Dallas struck early and never looked back in running wild with a 3-0 victory. Richard Mulrooney opened the FCD account after just four minutes when he whipped in a free kick from just outside the area, the second time this season he's scored within four minutes of the start of a match.
Then after Eddie Johnson hit the woodwork for the first of two times he would do it on the night, he doubled the Dallas lead on a quick break, running down a long ball played over the top before cutting inside and lashing a low shot inside D.J. Countess's near post from the right side of the arc (35).
Carlos Ruiz finished off the scoring from the penalty spot (63), taking his own spot kick after he was tripped up running at goal. Real defender Eddie Pope was sent off 18 minutes from the end, just the second time in his 10-year MLS career he was shown a red card.
At Rice-Eccles Stadium on June 4, FC Dallas scored opportunistic goals on either side of halftime to ease to a comprehensive victory. Both goals came from rebound opportunities. In the first half, Abe Thompson collected a pass in the penalty area and a hit a low shot that Real 'keeper D.J. Countess was able to turn aside with a dive to his left, but Ronnie O'Brien was quickest to the rebound and knocked it into the unguarded goal (22).
Then just before the hour the visitors doubled their lead when O'Brien's angled shot was kicked straight up the heart of the penalty area. Thompson steamed in and drove the rebound right back through the Real defenders and into the back of the net.
Here's John Ellinger's team (3-4-1-2): D.J. Countess - Rusty Pierce (Matt Behncke 61), Brian Dunseth, Nelson Akwari- Chris Brown, Brian Kamler, Nikolas Besagno (Jordan Cila 68), Seth Trembly - Andy Williams - Clint Mathis - Jason Kreis.
Here's Colin Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Greg Vanney, Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari - Arturo Alvarez, Aaron Pitchkolan, Ronnie O'Brien (Steve Jolley 89), Roberto Mina (Ty Maurin 83) - Abe Thompson (Drew Moor 72).
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake saw their league winless streak extended to 10 matches, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium last weekend. After the midweek games Real are still in striking distance in the Western Conference with 13 points from 18 matches, four ahead of last-place Chivas USA and five behind the Colorado Rapids for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Real Salt Lake hadn't won in 10 games in all competitions, while the Kansas City Wizards were trying to win back-to-back games for just the second time on the season.
Scott Sealy gave the home side a dream start by being in the right place at the right time. Right back Brian Roberts got off a quick shot that beat D.J. Countess at his near post, but came back off the base of the post. But it bounced right to Sealy, who tapped into the empty goal from close range (8).
But Real pulled level just two minutes later, Chris Brown latching onto a poor clearance and striding into the area before hammering home a looping drive.
Yet the Wizards nosed back in front through bizarre circumstances. A corner was swung in from the left and Countess went out to play it. Under pressure from a trio of K.C. attackers, he slapped the ball back toward his own goal and a pair of Real defenders on the line just couldn't keep it from completely crossing (27).
Then Sealy doubled the lead with his second goal on the night after Preki skipped through three tackles as he meandered through the Real penalty area before sliding the ball to the rookie, who beat another defender before hitting a low shot to the back of the net.
Just before the break RSL got back to within one, a cross from Luke Kreamalmeyer from the left flank finding Jordan Cila at the near post, and he flicked a header home inside the back stick (44). But they could get no closer over the final 45 minutes.
Real coach John Ellinger made three changes to the team that lost 5-1 to Chivas USA the previous weekend in Carson. Brian Dunseth returned from suspension and Michael Lookingland made his first MLS start in an all-change central defense pair for Cameron Knowles and Matt Behncke, while Jordan Cila started as a lone striker, coming in for Jamie Watson.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-1-4-1): D.J. Countess, Nelson Akwari, Michael Lookingland, Brian Dunseth, Seth Trembly, Kenny Cutler, Chris Brown, Jason Kreis, Clint Mathis (Jamie Watson 56), Brian Kamler (Luke Kreamalmeyer 34), Jordan Cila (Paul Broome 73)
"I actually thought we got more of the game as the game went on at the end," Ellinger said. "We got through the first half. It's never pleasant to play in high humidity and heat. But I thought as the game went on, the young legs we had on the field kept us in it. When you play Kansas City, they keep it tight and use their flanks pretty good. They are a counter team that will explode on you and that's a lot of running. When your down a goal and you are pushing, you find a little extra effort and that was a plus for us."
After a half-hour, Real had allowed 14 goals over their previous six hours of play - five in 90 minutes against Chivas USA, six in the extra-time U.S. Open Cup loss to the Minnesota Thunder, then three in the opening 30 minutes in Kansas City.
"That third goal was the crowning moment of the two and a half games leading up to that point," Ellinger said. "I couldn't even call that a soft goal. It was below soft. It's just a mental thing. When you let them run through the middle, you don't tackle them and don't bring them down, you don't stop their flow."
It hasn't helped to be without Rusty Pierce and Eddie Pope. With a back line that includes Pierce, Pope and Dunseth on the field at the same time, Real Salt Lake has won three of four games. As part of the effort to staunch the flow of goals against, Ellinger moved Seth Trembly to left back and Brian Kamler forward into the midfield, though Luke Kreamalmeyer replaced Kamler after just 34 minutes.
"We just have to get our character and confidence back," defender Brian Dunseth said. "We've had to make some adjustments, pulling Brian Kamler to the back from midfield. It's been like a patchwork defense for the most part. That being said, it's still not good enough from our end."
While Pope will not play again with RSL until Aug. 6 when the club faces Chivas USA, the first match back after the All-Star break, Andy Williams should be back from international duty, and Rusty Pierce could be available after participating in full training during the week. "We certainly need him," said Ellinger. Pierce hasn't played since re-injuring his right hamstring on July 4, the same injury that sidelined him for four games in June.
"Once we get Eddie and Andy back, we have a different record with them on the field than with them off the field," Dunseth said. "It's been hard but at the same time we're professionals. There is a huge chunk of us who have been playing in this league for a while. It's time for no more excuses and we just have to start playing."
After 89 minutes FC Dallas looked to have come away with the first victory against the New England Revolution in Foxborough, but two stunning goal from Taylor Twellman to complete his hat trick finished off a 3-2 Rev victory in the battle of the league's elite. FC Dallas are still atop the Western Conference with 34 points from 17 matches, three ahead of San Jose, and two off the Chicago Fire's pace at the head of the MLS overall table.
The meeting of the two top teams in the league from day one this season didn't disappoint. The Revolution were unbeaten in seven home games, coming into the game off their second loss of the campaign, while FC Dallas had just three losses and were riding a five-game unbeaten run.
FC Dallas took the lead after just seven minutes, as Arturo Alvarez was raced through alone on the right. His initial shot was blocked by Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis, but it came right back at Alvarez, bounced off him and rolled into the goal.
The Revolution pulled level just before the half, a remarkable run across and through the penalty area ending with a clipped cross that Taylor Twellman headed home (44), but FCD went back ahead in stoppage time, Ronnie O'Brien collecting a return pass from Carlos Ruiz before skipping into the area and around Reis, sliding the ball home from a tight angle.
Just when it seemed FC Dallas would survive with the full points, Twellman was credited with the equalizer nearly on the stroke of full time. Shalrie Joseph's hooked a cross into the box and Clint Dempsey headed it toward goal, Twellman getting the final touch almost on the line.
Then in stoppage time, Twellman was left unmarked 12 yards from goal. Joseph found him with an early cross whipped in from the right, and he turned to side-foot past Garlick to seal an improbable victory (93+).
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke made one change to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes the weekend before. Carlos Ruiz returned from injury and national team duty, coming in up top as Roberto Mina returned to a wide midfield role. Bobby Rhine moved back to right back, Drew Moor the odd man out in the changes.
Here's Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Steve Jolley, Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari - Roberto Mina (Drew Moor 74), Ronnie O'Brien (Abe Thompson 89), Aaron Pitchkolan, Arturo Alvarez (Carey Talley 83) - Carlos Ruiz
"We should have had the game won: dead and buried by then. We were by far the better team for the first 85 minutes. Reis kept them in it. We didn't take our chances. We got sucker punched at the end," Clarke said. "... It wasn't very good mentally. I'm very disappointed; we played so well for most of the goal. We dominated them in their own house to come away with nothing. We'll bounce back."
Clarke was especially upset about the Revolution's tying goal. "Obviously I wasn't too happy about it. Their second goal came from us trying to get the ball out of play for an injured player. They ended up a player, under no pressure, they turned and ran it up the field."
Arturo Alvarez has made the left-sided midfield role his own. He's started eight consecutive matches, and over the last four, he's contributed two goals and two assists, scoring in back-to-back games.
"He's done very well. He's lively and created a lot of good chances. It was a good play by him on the goal to get forward in the right spot," Clarke said. "I thought he was dangerous all night long, giving them fits and giving them lots of problems. We just couldn't get a third one."
Once again, FC Dallas felt they had some joy playing against a team which plays three in the back "Every time we play a team that plays three at the back we have good attacking players and we get a lot of opportunities going behind players. We need to work on our finishing. We had a lot of chances to put this game away. We could have been up by two or three goals at the end of the first half," Alvarez said.
FC Dallas have had a grueling road run, playing the most away games of any club in MLS this season (11). But on the flip side, they've won five and tied three of those games, and have lost just once thus far over June and July, with five wins in their eight games. "We have a couple of away games that are important and need to get some points away from home," Clarke said.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that Pizza Hut Park will be ready for its Aug. 6 opening, and FC Dallas will likely sail into a stretch of 10 home games in their final 13 this season atop the Western Conference. But first that means rebounding from last weekend's disappointment.
"We have talked about it [the loss] and now we are moving on to our next game," said defender Chris Gbandi. "That is the mentality of this team - we have a lot of veterans and a lot of guys that have been in the league and know when you lose you can't get too down and you can't get up too much when you win."