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Javier Morales
Real Salt Lake: Defending set pieces becoming a point of emphasis
RSL notes » Team has allowed four goals off set plays, turning two potential wins into ties.
First Published Apr 15 2014 05:41 pm • Last Updated Apr 15 2014 09:23 pm

Sandy • The battle being waged in the air hasn’t been kind to Real Salt Lake. Despite being undefeated at 2-0-4 through six difficult matches to start the 2014 campaign, RSL and its struggles defending set pieces have resulted in dropping crucial road points.

Four of the six goals RSL has conceded this season have come off of set plays, including all three at San Jose in the 3-3 draw on March 15 and Maurice Edu’s 90th-minute header in the final minutes of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.

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"We’ve lost four points on set pieces," said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.

Owners of 10 points, the club must focus on concentrating on the little things, as noted by coach Jeff Cassar on Tuesday after training. He mentioned being caught on counterattacks — as evidenced by the Union’s first goal Saturday — and being engaged when an RSL attack breaks down.

"It’s just recognizing where the danger could come from as you’re having joy going forward, and being proactive, instead of reactive to situations," Cassar said. "It’s tough for the back line or the goalkeeper to quite know when the mistake’s going to happen up top, but you have to be tuned in."

Getting healthy again

The absurd amount of early-season injuries is beginning to dwindle down, which is good news for RSL as four of its next four matches come in Rio Tinto Stadium. Forward Joao Plata participated in training Tuesday as a neutral player as he gains form again following his hamstring injury suffered March 22. Cassar said Plata looked sharp, but doesn’t know if he’ll be available Saturday against Portland.

Midfielder Luis Gil, who missed the Philadelphia game due to a leg injury, is "coming along" as Cassar noted, as is forward Robbie Findley, who returned to training Tuesday after offseason knee surgery. Defender Rich Balchan had a setback with his groin injury suffered last week, Cassar said.

Perhaps the most-watched injury is goalkeeper Nick Rimando. The RSL keeper returned to the field Tuesday to work on rehabilitation on his knee injury, which was sustained in the U.S. men’s national team friendly against Mexico on April 2.

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"I’d be really surprised if he was available for this weekend," Cassar said, "but you never know."

RSL youths shining

When 20-year-old defender Carlos Salcedo was called up to Mexico’s U-21’s national team camp Monday, it upped RSL’s number of youth players called into respective national team camps within the last month to four. Jordan Allen and Benji Lopez are with the U.S. U-20s participating in the Dallas Cup, while 17-year-old new signee Justen Glad recently trained with the U.S. U-18s.

"It means our players are being committed on and off the field," Cassar said. "I think our recruiting process is going really well and obviously the players coming up from the [RSL-Arizona] academy are doing a great job."


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