RSL play-by-play announcer Bill Riley may be on vacation during Saturday’s huge matchup at San Jose, but fans of the Claret-and-Cobalt will still have a familiar voice in the booth. Fox Soccer’s Rob Stone, formerly of ESPN and long an entertaining voice in American soccer, will fill in for Bill, calling this weekend’s 1-v-2 matchup alongside regular RSL color commentator Brian Dunseth on ABC4 kicking off at 8:30 p.m. MT.
Rob was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the match for RealSaltLake.com – our full Q+A is below:
RealSaltLake.com: RSL was struggling a bit there, going on a four-game winless run before breaking out in a big way last Saturday with a 3-0 shellacking of the Timbers. What are your thoughts on the club’s recent form? Think the team’s back on track for good?
Rob Stone: MLS is a league that periodically grinds a team down with its long schedule and challenging travel demands. Add in injuries and call-ups, and a dip in form is to be expected at some point by every team in the league. RSL appears to have passed their down turn and is trending back up. Better to have it in June/July, then October/November.
RealSaltLake.com: Obviously San Jose and RSL have already played twice this year, with San Jose winning both games. What do you think RSL needs to change from the first two meetings against San Jose to get a result?
Rob Stone: Most folks don't care to live in the past, but I think reflecting back on those 2 narrow defeats is a good thing for RSL. Those results provide a nice self-scout opportunity for RSL, and a bit of motivation to boot. A road result Saturday, with a shutdown defensive effort on Wondo, et al, will serve as a nice July surge for the club.
RealSaltLake.com: Saturday’s game will pit two very different styles against each other. RSL obviously plays with a narrow, diamond midfield, holding a lot of the ball and playing a lot on the ground. San Jose plays quite differently, going forward with their fullbacks Marvin Chavez and Steven Beitashour before crossing it into their dangerous forwards Wondolowski, Lenhart and Gordon. How do you think those sets of tactics matchup against one another?
Rob Stone: Sounds like good TV to me. Always intrigued by 'contrasting' approaches. Frankly, as long as at least one team comes out to attack, is all I really care about. Typical selfish TV guy, right?
RealSaltLake.com: What are your thoughts on Alvaro Saborio’s form? He had three goals against the Timbers last Saturday and what looked like a good goal called back in the game before that – do you think he’ll be able to continue his run of good form against the Quakes?
Rob Stone: Droughts by forwards always cause alarm, particularly on the mental front for the player. A bushel of goals always serves as a nice elixir. Trust me, the SJ brass has viewed the tape and has their defense keyed to limit Saborio. Don't expect a replication from him Saturday, but it should free up others.
RealSaltLake.com: What’s the one thing from Saturday’s game you’re most looking forward to? Something flying a little under the radar we should watch for? A Rob Stone special, if you will?
Rob Stone: Rarely are we granted a 1 v. 2 matchup in any sport/league, so that peaks my interest immediately. RSL has become a barometer in the league lately, so this will be a nice indication to see just how real a title threat SJ really is. Yes, RSL is now a club with a target on its jersey-you should be proud.
RealSaltLake.com: Any prediction?
Rob Stone: That I will thoroughly enjoy my time.