Last Saturday’s Real Salt Lake-San Jose match at Buck Shaw Stadium was not pleasant for any of the participants. The wind, rain, cold and slippery pitch made it difficult for either side to construct any flow to their game in a form that resembled professional soccer.
Even Kyle Beckerman, who scored the game-winner, bemoaned the conditions.
“It was crazy,” he told the Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL after the match. “The wind was nuts, the rain was coming at us from all angles and it just seemed to get worse as the night went on.”
Coach Jason Kreis was happy to see his team persevere through the conditions.
“It was difficult for us to possess the ball, and it was nearly impossible for us to get the ball in behind their back four because of the wind,” he told ESPN700 Sports after the match. “To have to battle back through a few things is character building for the group.”
He went on to add that his side was a bit fortunate with the outcome.
“You have to admit that we stole one, a little bit.”
[inline_node:331460]Rimando Keeps a Clean Sheet
The weather conditions can be especially troubling for goalkeepers, as witnessed by Jon Busch struggling to get to the ball on Beckerman’s goal. Not only did they have defenders slipping in front of them opening up space for attacking players, but the weather conditions also affect a keeper’s ability to judge and react to shots.
That’s what RSL’s Nick Rimando faced in the 71st minute, when last year’s Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski managed to free himself for a solid blast from 15 yards away. Rimando dove to his right, just managing to get two hands on the ball as he was inches from landing on the turf.
The ball was partially cleared before finding its way to Khari Stephenson, who sent another rocket Rimando’s way from about 25 yards out. Once again, Rimando made a nearly identical dive and was somehow able to deal with the movement of the ball in the swirling wind and the sting of the rain pelting his face. The tense sequence proved to be a key moment and ultimately led to Rimando keeping a clean sheet in the difficult conditions.
Shots Kept Coming
In the early days of the RSL franchise, teams would love to face the young expansion club. They routinely saw 10 or more shots on goal against them in a given game. However, this has become a rarity in recent years. In fact, the 10 shots on goal by San Jose was the first time that a team has been able to accomplish that feat against RSL since April of 2008.
Schuler Redeems Early Miscues
Young central defender Chris Schuler appeared to struggle with the conditions as much as anyone. He whiffed on an attempted clearance leading to a close range opportunity for San Jose’s Ryan Johnson (who subsequently also whiffed on his chance). Schuler then appeared to duck on a cross that brought a stern look from goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
However, Coach Kreis felt the 6-foot-4 defender found redemption in the second half.
“For me, I thought in the first half he made some mistakes,” admitted Kreis, “but it’s fantastic to see someone make mistakes in the first half and battle back, because in the second half he made some tackles that were critical.”
Real Salt Lake will likely put this one behind them quickly, as they get set to host the LA Galaxy on Saturday in their home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium. This match will bring its own set of challenges as the team will be without Arturo Alvarez, Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio, who will all be out for international action with their respective national teams.