LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake have had, unquestionably, a stellar first half of their season. The team that served as the doormat of the league prior to winning the MLS Cup last year appears to have elevated itself to elite status.
Accompanying RSL’s rise to the top is the team’s climb in many statistical categories. Not only are they on pace to eclipse numerous team records, but the players have had some significant individual accomplishments as well.
Although all is a pretty shade of pink for Real Salt Lake, the team still has a lot to accomplish and the second half of the season will likely be much more grueling and difficult than the first.
The team currently holds the most points it has ever seen at this mark of the season with 30. In fact, according to Elias Sports Bureau, RSL and the LA Galaxy are the only two teams to have eclipsed that number by the midway point over the last four seasons.
However, what may be a bit more astonishing is that RSL are on pace to reach 60 points at the end of the league campaign, which would shatter their record for most points by 20. A dramatic improvement, no doubt, and one that could help propel the team to the coveted Supporter’s Shield if they are able to maintain that pace.
In addition, the team is also on pace to score 56 goals. The team’s previous best was 45 in 2006, but that was in a 32-game season. Last year, RSL were a potent offense at home and led the league in total goals, but their output was hindered by a lack of scoring on the road. This season, the story has been a different one, as RSL have dramatically improved away from home.
But perhaps the greatest improvement and contributor to RSL’s excellent form has been the defense, which has taken a huge step forward. If RSL maintain the pace at which they are allowing goals, they would give up 22 for the season, besting their previous best of 35 allowed in 2009.
League Standings and Stats
Although they have been living much of this season in the shadows of the LA Galaxy, who started off tremendously, Real Salt Lake have begun to close the gap between the two. RSL find themselves at the pinnacle of the league, or close to it, in many statistical categories.
While they are still six points behind the league-leading Galaxy, RSL currently sit at the top of the league in goals scored with 28, and are second in in goals allowed with 11. This gives them the second best goal differential at +17, just one behind LA.
One area where they have fallen off in is in shots taken. They are tied for fifth in a category that, over the last two seasons, they have led by a wide margin. However, it could be a sign that that they are either generating better chances and or just doing a better job of finishing.
RSL have seen some noteworthy individual accomplishments that have been symbiotic with their outstanding team play.
Of course, Robbie Findley’s inclusion on the World Cup roster was a significant development for the team and the player, and his starting position in three of the four World Cup matches the US played was just icing on the cake.
Meanwhile, back home, teammate Nick Rimando had been busy distinguishing himself. First, he joined the exlusive club of keepers with 100 career victories. Then, he earned the MLS Player of the Month Award for June after going with a complete shutout for the month (3 games). Finally, his shutout streak, currently at 498 minutes, is just 50 minutes away from earning him 3rd place on the all-time list.
What's more, striker Alvaro Saborio, in his first MLS season, earned a MLS Player of the Month recognition (May) along with two Player of the Week nods.
The Second Half
While everything has been stellar to this point, there may be roadblocks in place that could hinder RSL’s performance over the second half.
For one thing, it’s a long season and teams that often started on a strong note begin to sputter as mid-summer approaches.
However, perhaps the biggest thing going against Real Salt Lake’s is their participation in CONCACAF Champions League. This will yield a brutal schedule and mind-boggling travel arrangements over a two-month stretch from mid-August to mid-October. RSL will have six additional matches during this period, three of them on the road in foreign lands, as they may travel to Panama, Honduras and Mexico City.
Can Real Salt Lake maintain their pace despite these obstacles? Only time will tell. But for now, they can take a moment to savor what they have accomplished.