Real Salt Lake v Chivas USA

MLS Preview: Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake

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  • RSL is without four important pieces, including captain Kyle Beckerman
  • Philly young scoring ace Jack McInerney is missing, too
  • Real Salt Lake has won fourth in a row, one short a club record

Real Salt Lake never sought to rid itself of pieces that were so critical to the team’s success in recent years, including the 2009 MLS Cup title. Will Johnson, Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola were valued figures – but figures whose salaries no longer made financial sense in a league of such tight financial structure, especially with such talented young men waiting for their minutes.

Players like Luis Gil (pictured), Devon Sandoval, Sebastian Velasquez, Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia, none older than 22, have given the team some highly productive minutes. So have defenders Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Chris Schuler, just a little further along in age. All of which is among the reasons RSL sits today atop the West with a league-leading 33 points.

Halfway through a season that management expected to be OK, but dented periodically with young-player inconsistency, fans around Rio Tinto can realistically begin wondering if this talented young assembly could make a Supporters Shield run.

Well, two things about any such visions:

First, the young guys absolutely have to bring it over the next few weeks, and they won’t have the “big brother” types around to guide them. Captain Kyle Beckerman, among the steadiest midfielders in MLS, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, right back Tony Beltran and forward Alvaro Saborio. All area away from international duty in the upcoming Gold Cup; Rimando, Beckerman and Beltran are U.S. internationals, while Saborio will compete for Costa Rica.

“Our belief in our depth continues to grow,” RSL manager Jason Kreis said. “I think everybody’s heading in the right direction. I’ve always said that’s what gets you results in this league, and I continue to think so.”

Still, it’s bad timing for Real Salt Lake, who just won their fourth consecutive league match, which is just one W short a club record. RSL won five in a row in 2010 and again in 2011. The latest was a 1-0 win last weekend at Toronto.

When the teams kick off tonight at Rio Tinto (10 p.m. ET; the official league preview is here), Philadelphia will also be dealing with a couple of player absences. The biggie is Jack McInerney, whose 10 goals continues to share the league lead. But the 20-year-old scoring ace has misplaced his striking touch lately, so perhaps some time in Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. camp will help “Jack Mac” put things right.

It’s his debut appearance in a full U.S. camp, so the opportunity is big. Besides, Conor Casey remains around to make up the difference, and his arrival into PPL Park, belated this year while he completed injury recovery, is one of the reasons John Hackworth’s young team has also been surprisingly successful.

OTHER NOTES: Union right back Sheanon Williams had two assists in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home with Dallas. … The Union is coming off three games at home, having taken seven of a possible nine points. … Philadelphia is 0-2 in games at Rio Tinto. … Real Salt Lake, in fact, has never lost to Philadelphia; the side from Utah is 2-0-3 overall in the series.

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.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

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?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.