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Real Salt Lake: Fire's firepower poses problems for RSL

Published May 2, 2014 9:46 pm

Chicago's leading scorer is out, but reigning MVP Magee has long been a tough opponent.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Tony Beltran isn't curious how Real Salt Lake will respond at Chicago on Saturday night. The RSL defender said he knows how his club will bounce back after another late-game collapse in which a sure three points turned into a lackluster point against Vancouver last Saturday night.

"This is an experienced group," he said. "I know this group is disappointed in themselves for giving up these [late goals]. … We're excited to get back on the field. We're impatient for this game, so we can redeem our mistakes."

RSL will face a Fire (0-1-6) side that has earned six consecutive points in six consecutive draws. Chicago will be without leading scorer Quincy Amarikwa (whose four goals leads the Fire) after he was shown a red card in the last outing.

But 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee, a noted thorn in RSL's side over the years, will command the respect of the back line and the coaching staff.

"Can't leave him out [of the conversation]," Beltran said. "He always pops up in dangerous places and seems to score against us."

Along with Magee, Juan Luis Anangono, Patrick Nyarko and Benji Joya, the Fire have some weapons that could pose problems Saturday.

"They're not getting the results they want, but they're playing some good soccer at times," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "It's a team we have to respect, without a doubt."

Nearly a full deck

Thursday's training session at America First Field in Sandy was the first time as many healthy bodies possible were out in some capacity. Saddled with injuries across the board dating back to the end last season, which bled into the preseason, RSL's lone absence from the first-team was Justen Glad, the club's most-recent Homegrown player from its Arizona-based Academy. The 17-year-old is working on finishing his high school duties in Casa Grande, Ariz., but outside of that, the whole gang was out.

Which made Cassar smile wide.

"The spirit's good, everyone's working hard in the gym, taking care of their bodies and now we can get back to having a full arsenal, whether it's having to go defensive, to keep the lead or put attacking players on to come from behind," Cassar said.

Forward Robbie Findley is getting close to being 100 percent back from offseason knee surgery, while defender Rich Balchan (adductor) and Cole Grossman (shins) are expected to be training fully next week.

Midfielder Luis Gil, hampered with a hamstring injury since April 5, is available for Saturday's match-day roster, Cassar said.

Familiar faces

Clint Mathis helped RSL win an MLS Cup title in 2009. CJ Brown was on the bench for several years with Cassar and former coach Jason Kreis. Lovel Palmer played a vital role in the club's playoff run in 2013 and will be remembered for his penalty kick miss in the title match shootout. All three will face their former club Saturday night at Toyota Park.

"We'll battle on the field, and then afterward, we'll shake hands," Beltran said.


Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire

P At Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

Kickoff • Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

TV • CW30. Radio • 700 AM

Records • RSL 3-0-5; Chicago 0-1-6

Last meeting • RSL 1, Chicago 1 (May 25, 2013)

About RSL • Its eight-game unbeaten streak to start a season is tied for the fourth-longest unbeaten start to an MLS season in league history. … Is coming off a 2-2 draw with Vancouver last Saturday, in which it conceded two goals in the final eight minutes of the match. … Filled with Chicago connections, RSL men Ned Grabavoy, Chris Schuler and GM Garth Lagerwey hail from the area and were produced by the same club team.

About Chicago • Following its season-opening loss, Chicago has drawn six consecutive matches under first-year coach Frank Yallop. … The Fire are tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Impact with six points; both clubs remain one point ahead of the Portland Timbers (five points) for the worst record in MLS. … 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee isn't on the same torrid scoring pace as he was a year ago, with just one goal in seven outings.