What a week for Real Salt Lake.
First, they lost the battle, but did enough to win the war in Costa Rica, advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League final courtesy of a 2-1 loss, which gave them a 3-2 aggregate series victory. Then last Saturday, they employed a reserve-laden lineup that managed to get the job done in New England with a 2-0 victory over the Revolution.
In the latter, three RSL players experienced “firsts.” Arturo Alvarez got his first start with his new team, Chris Schuler scored his first MLS goal and goalkeeper Kyle Reynish enjoyed his first win in net.
“It feels awesome," said Reynish. "To be honest, I didn’t feel like I had to do quite as much as I have in some other games. Over four years now I’ve been waiting to get it, so I think [I] appreciate it a little more than some other guys who maybe get it earlier in their careers.”
Schuler, meanwhile, was excited about his goalscoring experience.
“It feels good to get on the board, definitely," he said. "I’m a bigger guy and it’s kind of expected. It’s good to come through. I’ve got to give a shout out to C.J. Brown for helping me out a lot after practice working on that. I’m a big guy. I feel that if I don’t score a goal every now and then, I’m doing something wrong.”
Oh Captain, My Captain
[inline_node:327057]In the New England match, 24-year old midfielder Will Johnson saw his first time starting with the captain’s armband for Real Salt Lake.
That led to an unusual situation as normal team captain Kyle Beckerman came on in the second half, armband-less. However, as Johnson was ejected in the late stages, Beckerman did re-inherit the armband for the last few minutes of the match.
Also on the captain's front, both Johnson and New England’s Shalrie Joseph were shown red cards. You don’t see that happen every day.
Frustrating the opposition
Revolution head coach Steve Nichol admitted that the four yellow cards and two red cards shown to his team were at least partially a result of RSL getting under their skin.
“I don’t think anybody was over the top, but certainly guys were getting frustrated," he said. "But frustrating is the right word for the whole evening, never mind the last 30 minutes when the cards were flying around.”
How long ago did RSL head coach Jason Kreis decide on his reserve lineup?
“About two weeks ago," he said. "We try to think about things and make plans several weeks out. We don’t tell the players about it.”
Life in the Monster’s Cave
“You go the day before and see the stadium and you get used to it,” Nick Rimando told ESPN700 Sports Radio in Salt Lake City of his first impression of Saprissa Stadium. “When you go the next day, it’s a completely different environment – there’s screaming fans talking about everyone in your family.”
Rimando did like one thing he saw at Saprissa Stadium: defender Jamison Olave’s wonder-strike, an agile side-volley.
“When I saw the replay, it was pretty high, and he did well to get up and then landed on his feet," the RSL 'keeper said. "That’s the kind of athlete he is. He can make plays like that. And that was one of the biggest goals, for sure, in the history of our team. And that pretty much got us through as they got that PK at the end.”
Both of last week’s matches were played on turf, and defender Nat Borchers was glad to get them out of the way all in one swoop. He did admit that playing on turf takes more out of players than playing on grass.
"I think you feel it after 90 minutes on a different surface," he said. "Your body has more aches and pains in your lower back, your hips and hamstrings.”
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