David Beckham, Javier Morales

Game-changer: Real Salt Lake was a woeful road team before a 2009 trip into Ohio


Real Salt Lake’s trip into Kansas to meet Sporting KC – it’s the MLS talker of the weekend – won’t be easy.

But it’s not far-fetched that Jason Kreis’ team could steal a point or even walk out of Livestrong Sporting Park with all three. RSL is a hardy road side – even if this was hardly the case just three years ago.

Under Kreis, the men of Rio Tinto have become quite adept at managing life beyond Utah borders. They’ve already won at Los Angeles and Portland this year. Yes, both those teams have more issues than Time Magazine at the moment, but that shouldn’t discount the significance of achievement of a visitor into the Home Depot Center or Jeld-Wen Field.

Real Salt Lake is 11-12-11 on the road since 2009. The team’s record at Rio Tinto is quite healthy, and for a time it was historically strong. But you can make a case that it’s RSL’s road form that elevates the team from “good” to “legit league contender” status.

And that traces back to a certain night in Columbus in November of 2009.

First, examine the difference in the three seasons before that fall trip into Ohio, a real game-changer for the franchise.

  • 2007 … 2-8-5
  • 2008 … 2-9-4
  • 2009 … 2-11-2
  • Total … 6-28-11

And then after that noted playoff victory at Crew Stadium:

  • 2010 … 4-4-7
  • 2011 … 5-8-4
  • 2012 … 2-0-0
  • Total … 11-12-11

That is one Big Kahuna of a difference.

So what happened in that 2009 playoff series? RSL had a 1-0 lead after the opening leg in Utah, a match remembered for Robert Warzycha’s decision to keep Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Columbus’ bench. Still, things looked good for the defending champs, who took a 2-0 lead in the return leg in Ohio. At the time, RSL had never rallied from behind on the road. But then …

Robbie Findley, Javier Morales and Andy Williams struck for RSL, they cruised through on aggregate, won subsequently in the conference final at Chicago’s Toyota Park and went on to claim MLS Cup 2009.

Since then, RSL on the road has been a completely different side. Kreis has shaken the temptations of his younger coaching days to do things differently on the road, refusing to cede to the appeal of playing more defensively away from Rio Tinto.

We’ll see how it works for everyone tomorrow at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Cisse arrested in sex tape investigation

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Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is embroiled in a bizarre investigation into the extortion of a sex tape.

The 34-year-old French striker has been arrested by French police who have confirmed that are investigating attempts to bribe another international footballer.

[ MORE: Klinsmann sends Johnson home ]

Unconfirmed reports from France claim that the individual in question is France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, a former teammate of Cisse at both Marseille and with the French national team.

According to Reuters news agency, Cisse was questioned because he was familiar with the people involved and in total four individuals were arrested as it is alleged they plotted to ask for money from Valbuena for the sex tape to not be released. It is unclear if the tape is of Valbeuna and his partner Fanny Lafon, or if other individuals are involved.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT future ]

Cisse won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and scored 24 goals in 79 games during his three-year stay at Anfield until 2007. He also had spells with Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, while he is currently out of contract after being released by Ligue 1 side Bastia following nine goals in 41 appearances. Cisse is due to appear on the French version of “Dancing with the Stars” in the coming months.

Further reports from France say that Cisse is expected to be “exonerated” and that the existence of the video is “not proven” at this point.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?