Real Salt Lake (4-0-5) 17 points, 2nd East, 2nd Overall
Old-fashioned. If I had to choose one word for Real Salt Lake’s style of play, it would be old-fashioned. They’re a throwback team, in a league that is trying to embrace a more balanced style. Salt Lake has a natural number 10 in Javier Morales. He is the type of player that has the freedom to be anywhere and is always ready to create an attack. If a game is going 100 miles per hour, Morales has the skill to stop the ball, take a breath, and slow it all down.
When the ball is at the feet of a playmaker like that, time seems to slow to a crawl until the second they make a deadly pass or go in for the kill themselves. The freedom a player like Morales has is twice as dangerous if there’s a player that can read his mind and be ready to pounce at an opportunity; Alvaro Saborio is that type of player. Saborio is a goalscorer who doesn’t have to score goals in order to be felt on the score sheet. His job is to either score or just stay in the attacking third and look for somebody to score.
How can two players be given such freedom without there being a clear hole in the midfield? That’s where Kyle Beckerman comes into play. Beckerman is a rock in the midfield. He’s a hound that is only there to maintain order and protect the midfield. He covers so much ground in the mid that Morales can be given the freedom to work with Saborio without having to worry that much about playing defense. If Morales takes a risk that backfires, Beckerman will be there to fix it before the defense is even bothered.
Which brings me to their defense. Even though, Real has lets in few goals, that does not mean that their defense is perfect. It’s far from it. I think it’s probably their weakest third. Real’s defense is nothing to brag about and it will make multiple mistakes a game, however, it’s almost impossible to score on their goalkeeper. In Nick Rimando, Salt Lake has the best pure goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. He has the shot stopping ability that Tally Hall has, but faar more experience and has much better distribution of the ball. There’s a reason why Rimando is probably going to Brazil to defend the Red, White, and Blue and Hall is staying in Houston.
Houston Dynamo (4-4-2) 14 points, 2nd East, 6th Overall
Two victories later and the Houston Dynamo are knocking on the door of the top placed teams in the league. They’re sitting 2nd in the east, 6th overall, and their next game is at home. How can you not be happy about the position that they are in? Well the truth is, the Dynamo did not convince many people with their performance against Columbus. They were outmatched at times, and when they weren’t outmatched they were struggling to stay on the same level as the Crew. Houston was saved by the fact that David Horst had yet another great game on defense, and Will Bruin decided to keep on scoring.
However, we did play with a new line-up, Jermaine Taylor was left out of the 18, Servando Carrasco was starting, and it was their second game of the week. They were on tired legs. All we can do is hope that Hall, the man of the match against Columbus, Horst, the best outfield player against the Crew, and Brad Davis decide to give another superb performance. Davis had one of the best games of his career against Chivas USA, and followed it with a good performance against the Crew.
The Battle of the Goalkeepers. That’s what I’m dubbing this game. Two of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer will be pitted against each other. Morales will create chances and a few of those chances will get through the defense, it will be up to Hall to show us why Klinsmann should keep him on his radar.
On the other end, Boniek Garcia and Davis will be trying to get through Beckerman in order to create chances against Rimando, and he will be trying to show Klinsmann why he should be considered Howard’s replacement if a horrific set of events occur that causes Howard to be incapable of playing a game in Brazil.
There is no way that this game is an all-out shootout that has goals-a-plenty. It will be decided by a mistake from a Houston defense that is still trying to build chemistry, or Rimando finally being incapable of stopping a single shot after a barrage of many. This will be a game of tactics, a game that Dom should be able to coach his way to victory in.
Score: 1-0 Houston
Real Salt Lake: Out- Robbie Findley, Rich Balchan, Cole Grossman
Houston: Out- Eric Brunner, Tony Cascio, Ricardo Clark
Real Salt Lake: None
Real Salt Lake: GK- Rimando; D- Winger, Schuler, Borchers, Beltran; M- Grabavoy, Mulholland, Beckerman, Morales; F- Plata, Saborio
Houston: GK- Hall; D- Ashe, Horst, Cochran, Sarkodie; M- Driver, Carrasco, Davis, Garcia; F- Barnes, Bruin