You can’t blame those who thought the losses of Andy Williams, Collen Warner, Robbie Russell, and Jean Alexandre would tear into Real Salt Lake’s characteristic depth, but after one month of the season, it’s clear RSL’s reloaded.
Early season fitness issues surrounding Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio allowed Jason Kreis to show off this year’s reinforcements. Paulo Junior’s role looks set to expand again up top. Luis Gil is ready to persist with the contributions he made in Morales’ absence, while Sebastian Velasquez and Jonny Steele have claimed regular spots in Kreis’ midfield rotation. Chris Schuler is pushing Nat Borchers at the back.
To this point, Kreis hasn’t had to give a firm indication as to who’s in his choice XI, though it was assumed Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola will be his forwards, Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson will get the key starts between Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, while Nat Borchers will have the toughest time retaining his starting spot along side Jamison Olave.
But as RSL approaches full health, questions persist. Let’s look at how the playing time has shaken out thus far:
Although Alvaro Saborio has appeared in all six matches, he’s only started two. Paulo Junior has been the regular starter as the team’s advanced attacker, usually supported by Fabian Espindola. Outstanding question: When will Saborio resume his starting spot?
At the top of the diamond, Morales has only started once, playing just 212 minutes all season. Luis Gil, however, has started six times, five in the midfield’s most advanced position. Outstanding questions: When will Morales fully return, and does that bump Gil to the bench or the left side of midfield?
At the wide midfield positions, Ned Grabavoy and Sebastian Velasquez have made the most starts, but Will Johnson, Jonny Steele and Gil are also options. Johnson was hobbled to start the year, though his time out only created an opening for Velasquez. Outstanding question: Which two players will emerge as go-to guys between Morales and Beckerman?
And at the back, Chris Schuler’s gotten four starts, Nat Borchers two to the left of Jamison Olave. Borchers was slowed up by injury last month, but even since his return, the former MLS Best XI member is time-sharing. Outstanding question: Does Kreis see this as Schuler’s time?
There will be no lower league wonder story in the League Cup semifinals.
Southampton and Liverpool’s marquee matchup in the quarterfinals of the League Cup will hit your screens on Wednesday, but three other Premier League teams booked their spots in the semis with Tuesday wins.
Man City last won the League Cup in 2013, while Stoke last won in 1972 and Everton has never hoisted the Football League Cup. As for Wednesday’s quarterfinalists, Southampton’s last League Cup final came in 1979, while Liverpool most recently won in 2012.
Middlesbrough 0-2 Everton
The Toffees got two goals in eight first-half minutes, with Gerard Deulofeu scoring a goal off a magnetic dribble and shot in the 20th minute and Romelu Lukaku adding another in the 28th.
Manchester City 4-1 Hull City
Steve Bruce‘s Tigers still have plenty of power from last season’s relegation campaign, and planted men behind the ball in hopes of springing an upset on Manchester City. The defense was broken in the first half by Wilfried Bony after just 12 minutes. Kelechi Iheanacho scored late, before Kevin De Bruyne put home two more. Andrew Robertson provided late consolation for Hull.
Stoke City 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday
The Potters got a wonderful left-footed volley goal from Ibrahim Afellay on the half-hour, and that was about all they’d need against the visiting Owls. Phil Bardsley hammered in a low free kick late to insure and ensure the victory.
Given that status, will he be attractive to other Liga MX clubs? Could he fit the plans of an MLS club? At age 23 and without consistent playing time for club, could a European stop be in the mix?
Transfermarkt estimates his value to about $1.6 million, and he comes with valuable international and CONCACAF Champions League experience. It will be interesting to see his destination, should the reports be true, as we continue to weigh what it means to be a U.S. international on the world stage.
Manchester City host Hull City at the Etihad Stadium with Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hoping to have David Silva back in the starting lineup but Joe Hart is still out injured so Willy Caballero will continue in goal. Steve Bruce‘s side drew 1-1 at the Etihad last season when they visited City before being relegated from the Premier League. The Tigers are fighting for instant promotion back to the big-time and knocked out Leicester City on penalty kicks in the last round.
Everton face a tricky trip to the Riverside Stadium as Roberto Martinez and the Toffees play Middlesbrough. Aitor Karanka’s side lost in the play-off final to Norwich last season but are looking good for promotion this term as they sit second in the second-tier and knocked out Manchester United on penalty kicks in the last round. Can Everton sort out their defensive frailties?
A third PL club has a tricky test coming up on Tuesday as Stoke City’s reward for beating Chelsea on PKs in the last round is a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. This will be no stroll in the park for Mark Hughes‘ side as the second-tier Owls comfortably knocked off Arsenal in the last round and this game has “cupset” written all over it.
Below are the fixtures for Tuesday as you can click on the link above to follow all the games live.
League Cup quarterfinals
Manchester City vs. Hull City – 2:45 p.m. ET
Middlesbrough vs. Everton – 2:45 p.m. ET
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 2:45 p.m. ET
Sponsors were originally promised places on the FIFA reform committee. But instead of being invited into meetings discussing the overhaul of the organization, they have only been offered seats on an advisory board which is yet to be appointed.
The sponsors’ letter was sent from Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch to FIFA’s ruling body ahead of meetings this week.