Monday, March 29, 2010

Nearly Perfect Start for RSL

Real Salt Lake did something on Saturday that has never happened in the five previous seasons of the franchises history - they won their season opening match. Riding on a pair of ridiculous strikes from playmaker Javier Morales, RSL cruised to a convincing 3-0 victory on the road at San Jose.

Talk about playing with something to prove, RSL scored a third as many goals at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday as they scored the entire 2009 season on the road. All three goals came from the Argentine of Morales and Fabian Espindola. It's so good to see those two combining again.

The movement of the ball by Salt Lake was as impressive as last year. Lots of short passing in tight spaces, and lots of quick one-touches to get out of sticky situations. Speaking of touch, there was one player who appears to have really worked on his initial contact with the ball, and that's striker Robbie Findley. It is apparent that his experience with the US National Team over the off season has helped Findley corral and then protect the ball. He wasn't perfect at it, but he was much improved since last season.

Even though the team can gain a lot of confidence with this historic season opening win, it's hard to really gauge Salt Lake's true quality as San Jose appears to be a team in utter disarray. RSL dominated the midfield play, but there were times - especially late in the game - where the Earthquakes were dangerous on the attack and the Salt Lake defense suffered a lapse in concentration. Having Rimando's deflection save hit the post, on a point plank strike from Arturo Alvarez, was a stroke of fantastic luck. I would think that any team better than San Jose would have scored with the chances created late in the match, but the bounces seemed to go Salt Lake's way. A much stiffer test will come this Thursday when the Champions travel to Houston to take on the ever consistent, Tang-clad, Dynamo.

Those are my thoughts. What did you think of Salt Lake's performance on Saturday night in San Jose?

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Outlook for Real Salt Lake

With the signing of the collective bargaining agreement, and then after watching the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders kick off the season on Wednesday night, I officially have Real Salt Lake on the brain. Most of the preseason conversation has revolved around whether the 2009 cup title was a one and down deal, and how the team will react to the departure of Yura Movsisyan.

Here are some of things that I've been thinking about for the upcoming RSL season.

1. Consistency

With the exception of the 2009 playoffs, and possibly the extreme latter part of the 2008 regular season, consistency has never been a word that describes Real Salt Lake. As head coach Jason Kreis has mentioned in the news recently, last year RSL was a slightly below .500 team. The necessary player talent is on the roster, and I believe that we're seeing Kreis developing into one of the great young coaches in this country. Everything seems to be in place for RSL to compete and win. Now the players need to prove that the MLS Cup winners badge on their shirts isn't a fluke.

2. Can wins be found on the road

Going 2-11-2 on the road is dismal, and can not be expected to get the team back into the playoffs. A positive thought is that the 2009 playoffs largely took place outside of Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL was forced to come up with results on the road in Columbus and Chicago. Those results should help with confidence. Combine that with the fact that the 2010 champaign opens on the road with the West's weakest team, there is no better opposition with which to gain confidence for the rest of the summer.

3. Will CCL or US Open Cup be taken seriously

This question has been lingering in my brain since coming down from the whole cup victory. Historically, not many MLS teams take the Open Cup seriously until that later rounds. As far as the CONCACAF Champions League, that's a mixed bag. I don't think it will come down to whether RSL will take the competition seriously, I think it will all depend on how the MLS season is going when the Champions League begins in August. With MLS rosters as they are at this point in time, the teams realistically don't have the depth to simultaneously be competitive in league and Champions League play. If RSL is sitting in a comfortable spot toward the top of the MLS table in August, than I would expect to be able to afford to rest their starters for MLS matches and make some noise in the Champions League.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MLS CBA Details Released

This picture represents my excitement for the coming season. I can almost smell the grass at Rio Tinto Stadium. But, enough dreaming. As I have received a lot of questions about Major League Soccer's recently signed collective bargaining agreement, I figured I would pass along the press release of details that was issued today in its entirety. How do you think it turned out for the players? How about for the owners? Did anyone "win"? Also, can you find Real Salt Lake's player representative in the picture?

NEW YORK (Tuesday, March 23, 2010) – Following Saturday’s announcement of a new collective bargaining agreement between Major League Soccer (MLS) and the MLS Players Union (Players Union), the League today announced key elements of the five-year agreement.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, player salaries are guaranteed to increase each year league-wide, and the individual minimum player salaries also will continue to grow. The new agreement also includes improvements to players’ quality of life such as meals, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for relocation costs and player appearances.

The agreement is subject to the approval of the MLS Board of Governors and the membership of the Players Union.

The following are the key points agreed to by MLS and the Players Union in their new five-year collective bargaining agreement:

* TERM: 2010 – 2014.

* GUARANTEED CONTRACTS: The CBA provides for guaranteed contracts for all players who are at least 24 years old with three years of MLS service. The majority of the players in the League will have guaranteed contracts each season.

· SALARY BUDGET: An increase of the salary budget from $2.315 million per club in 2009 to $2.55 million in 2010 (10.15%) and an increase of 5% per year thereafter.

· An increase of the minimum salary for senior roster players from $34,000 in 2009 to $40,000 in 2010 (17.64%) and an increase of 5% per year thereafter.

* PLAYER MOVEMENT: While there will be no bidding by MLS clubs against each other for out-of-contract players, the League will establish a “re-entry draft” for players who are out of contract. Although the specific parameters of that draft are being finalized, it will address players in each of the following categories:

o Option Not Exercised

A player who is at least 23 years old with three years of MLS service and whose option is not exercised will be placed in a re-entry draft and made available to all clubs at his option salary.

o Contract Terminated

A player who is at least 22 years old with one year of MLS service and who is asked to take a pay cut after contract termination will be placed in a re-entry draft and made available to all clubs at his current salary.

o Contract Expires

A player who is at least 30 years old with eight years of MLS service and whose contract has expired will be placed in a re-entry draft unless his team makes him a qualified offer that must be at least 105% of his last salary. If placed in the re-entry draft, the player will be made available to all clubs at a salary equal to 105% of his last salary.

A player who is at least 25 years of age with at least four years of MLS service whose contract has expired will be placed in a re-entry draft unless his team offers him a base salary of at least as much as the base salary paid to him in the last year of his contract. If placed in the re-entry draft, the player will be made available to all clubs at a salary equal to the salary in the final year of his contract.

* OPTIONS IN PLAYER CONTRACTS: A limit on the number of options in player contracts to two for players who are at least 25 years old with four years of MLS service. Contracts for all other players may have up to three options.

o For players whose annual compensation is less than $125,000, the minimum increase in base salary will be 10% for players who play in at least 66% of his club’s games and 12.5% for players who play in at least 75% of his club’s games.

· PLAYER BENEFITS: The CBA includes a package of benefits that include increases in 401K contributions by the League, appearance fees, per diem when travelling and relocation expense reimbursement. Among the additional player benefits in the CBA are full health care benefits for every player and his family at no cost, 401(k) contributions and expanded insurance benefits.

· BONUSES FOR WINS AND EXHIBITIONS: The CBA includes a package of bonuses for wins in MLS games and international tournaments as well as appearance fees for international exhibitions.

* GROUP LICENSE: The League and Players Union reached agreement on an extension of the Group License that will run through 2015 (a year longer than the CBA).

* RESERVE DIVISION: MLS and the Players Union will establish a joint committee to study the re-launch of a Reserve Division. In the event the rosters are expanded, the salary for those players will be a minimum of $31,250 with additional annual increases.
Photo Credit: Jose Argueta/MLS