MLS Preview: Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls

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  • RSL’ eight-game unbeaten run is over
  • Salt Lake are 3-0-3 in last six games vs. New York
  • April 18, 2009, last time New York beat RSL

It will be a very tasty clash between these two at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, there’s no doubt about that.

Real Salt Lake head to New York top of the West and have the best record in MLS, while the home side are hoping they can make ground on first-placed Sporting KC in the East.

Last time out RSL were involved in a controversial clash with Sporting KC, as Chris Wingert was sent off and a late Ike Opara goal handed Jason Kreis’ side their first defeat in nine.

While New York couldn’t score against a stingy Toronto outfit and succumbed to a disappointing 0-0 tie up at BMO Field.

So both will hope to get back to winning ways.

Kreis’ squad has been hit heavily by the Gold Cup, with veteran ‘keeper Nick Rimando, defender Tony Beltran and captain Kyle Beckerman all on duty for the US. This clash is also intriguing as former RSL stars Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave will be facing up against their old team. They were part of a double trade over the offseason that raised plenty of eyebrows around the league. This game is the only time the two sides will meet this season, so Olave and Espindola will have to put past friendships to one side and do battle.

For New York, they desperately want to record a win against RSL after not tasting success in their previous six matches. They’ve lost three in a row to Salt Lake and have won just three out of the 15 games all-time. If the Red Bulls do manage to grab all three points, they’d be just one point behind SKC in the Eastern conference standings. New signing Bradley Wright-Phillips may feature for New York.

The game is available to watch on MLS Live at 7pm ET on Saturday.

What they’re saying

New York head coach Mike Petke on RSL: “They have a system that they play that Jason [Kreis] has been working on for years and he has the right players in there so that when they do miss key players they have players to step right in and they don’t miss a beat. They’re very organized behind the ball, they like to come very narrow in the midfield and possess the ball, get numbers up to play the ball around you, and they have outside fullbacks that like to get forward and are a danger up top whoever it is, [Alvaro] Saborio, [Robbie] Findley. These guys are fast paced players who have a nose for the ball.”

Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill: “They’re scoring their goals and obviously not conceding a lot but there they seem to get the edge on a lot of teams but you know for us we’re very good at home. We put on a great performance against Montreal and you know the pressure was on then, so I suppose it’s up to us to step up to the challenge again.”

New York’s captain Thierry Henry: “For me, since I have been in this league, Salt Lake has been the best team by a distance. But as you know here you have to win the MLS Cup. You know if it was in any other league, Real Salt Lake would have been champions this year, like in terms of consistency.”

RSL’s Ned Grabavoy on the loss to Sporting: “I thought we were in a good spot there until the red card. We were up 1-0 and thought we were playing really well, for the most part. Things were tight in the back. We were in a good position until that point. Obviously it was under tough circumstances. On a different night we probably walk out of here with a point, but we don’t. So we need a reaction next week.”

Prediction

This could be the time for the Red Bulls to pounce and have yet another marquee win at home. They absolutely battered Montreal at home two weeks ago, and with a weakened Salt Lake side and a long trip cross-country, the Red Bulls may finally break their jinx against Jason Kreis’ side. That defeat to Sporting KC was demoralizing and RSL must react positively. It will be a huge battle, but Henry may have something special up his sleeve to decide this one.

MLS Snapshot: FCD lose 2nd in a row; Fire win 4th straight

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The game in 100 words (or less): After starting the 2017 season nine games without a loss, FC Dallas, the longest-lasting unbeaten team in MLS, has lost two straight. Saturday saw their unbeaten start come to an end, against the San Jose Earthquakes, just as Wednesday’s trip to Toyota Stadium saw Oscar Pareja’s side drop all three points to the Chicago Fire. All three of the game’s goals were scored during the opening nine minutes, as FCD fought back from 1-0, but couldn’t find a second equalizer on the night. Nemanja Nikolic bagged the opener, his 11th goal in 13 games to extend his lead in the Golden Boot race to two, in the 3rd minute. Roland Lamah brought FCD back to level terms three minutes later, but David Accam restored the home side’s advantage after three more minutes. Nikolic had every opportunity in the world to take his goals tally to a dozen during second-half stoppage time, but Chris Seitz denied the Hungarian international from the penalty spot. For the first time since Sept. 2012, Chicago have won four straight league games, and sit just two points back of Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC (26 points).

[ WATCH: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to $10M contract demands ]

Three moments that mattered

3′ — Nikolic redirects past Seitz for 1-0 — Nikolic ran 15 yards straight ahead without a single FCD player picking him up or impeding his path to the near post, and they paid for it.

6′ — Lamah taps it in to make it 1-1 right away — Lamah has been quite the disappointment since arriving in Dallas this winter, but he happened to eb in the right place at the right time in this one, as a failed clearance fell to the five-times-capped Belgian international for an easy tap-in, and his first MLS goal.

9′ — Accam cuts inside to make it 2-1 just as quickly — At some point, Accam will be properly rated by the wider MLS audience, as he’s been Chicago’s best player for two full seasons, and has only hit a new high with capable attackers all around him.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Dax McCarty

Goalscorers: Nikolic (3′), Lamah (6′), Accam (9′)

Report: Chicharito-to-MLS in doubt due to contract demands

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While Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the feel of the player most clearly destined to play in MLS since Thierry Henry, we might have to wait a little while longer before the 28-year-old Mexican international ditches Europe in favor of a return to North America.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to a report from ESPN FC on Thursday, Hernandez is seeking an annual salary “way north of $10 million,” which would shatter the current record contract for an MLS player (Kaka — $7.2 million per year).

Hernandez has one more season left on his contract with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. During the summer of 2018 he’ll be available for any club in the world to sign on a free transfer. With Los Angeles FC, the team Hernandez has reportedly been negotiating with for months now, set to debut in MLS in March 2018, chances are they’d like the centerpiece of their squad (and the largest annual investment in MLS history) to be involved on opening day, thus a fee will be required, very likely pushing the club’s total investment (salary plus fee) into the neighborhood of $50 million.

[ WATCH: Giovani dos Santos’ jaw-dropping volley vs. MIN ]

You can see pretty quickly why LAFC might balk at such demands.

With that said, 1) LAFC shouldn’t be surprised by this recent development, given Hernandez’s otherworldly allure within the LA market; 2) to piggyback on no. 1, a player should be paid every cent he’s worth to the club, on and off the field, and there might not be a player in the entire world (this side Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo) who’d make LAFC a bigger hit in LA from day one.

Enrique “more than satisfied” with Barca tenure, eyes one more trophy

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MADRID (AP) Luis Enrique is finally saying goodbye to Barcelona, with one last chance at a trophy.

The Luis Enrique era in Barcelona ends after the Copa del Rey final against Alaves on Saturday, when the coach could cap his three-year stint with a ninth trophy out of a possible 13.

It would be a fitting farewell for him nearly three months after his surprise announcement that he was leaving.

“It would be a special title,” Luis Enrique said.

The former Barcelona midfielder has won nearly everything as the coach, since replacing Gerard Martino in 2014.

He led the team to the treble of the Spanish league, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2015. He achieved the league-Copa double in 2016, and began this season with the Spanish Super Cup title, their only trophy so far.

It hasn’t been Luis Enrique’s best season with Barcelona, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, and lost the Spanish league to Real Madrid last weekend.

“I’m happy and more than satisfied for all the years that I’ve enjoyed with this club,” the 47-year-old Luis Enrique said.

He announced in March he was leaving so he could get some rest.

“I came here to be a leader and I’ve been one. I’m leaving when I think it’s the best time to do it.”

His other titles included the 2015 European Super Cup and the 2015 Club World Cup.

Barcelona has yet to lose a Copa del Rey home-and-away series since he took over, a run of 12 straight triumphs.

“We are all thankful for these three years (with Luis Enrique),” captain Andres Iniesta said. “We have to win one last title to finish the best possible way.”

Barcelona has been in the Copa final in seven of the last nine seasons, including the last four. It has won it a record 28 times, including the last two.

Alaves will be playing in the final of a major tournament for only the second time in its 96-year history. The other was the UEFA Cup 16 years ago, when it lost to Liverpool 5-4 in extra time.

Alaves’ only winner’s trophy is for Spain’s second division. It was a promoted club in Spain’s top division this season after 10 years in the lower divisions, including four in the third tier. It finished ninth in the Liga.

Alaves enters the Copa final boosted from having beaten Barcelona 2-1 at Camp Nou at the beginning of the season.

The coach touted to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona is Ernesto Valverde, who left Athletic Bilbao this week. An official announcement is expected next week.

Marco Silva leaves Hull; Premier League clubs lining up

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Marco Silva came to the Premier League, he saw the PL, but he didn’t conquer the PL — at least, not yet.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

It was announced on Thursday that the 39-year-old Portuguese manager, who took over last-place Hull City in January, has left the club after succumbing to relegation from the PL. Silva, whose stock rose quickly during his brief stay in England, signed a contract that ran only through the end of the season should they be relegated, thus he’s not sure on options these days. Hull would have undoubtedly welcomed him back for a run at promotion from the Championship next season.

As recently as Wednesday, Silva was expected to be named the new boss at Porto, though various reports stated that talks between the manager and club had broken down.

[ MORE: Terry “couldn’t care less” about criticism of his farewell ]

Watford and Crystal Palace, both of whom are manager-less after Walter Mazzarri was fired and Sam Allardyce resigned, respectively, are said to be extremely interested in Silva’s services.