The LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are about to head into a home and home series with Real Salt Lake, so I decided to ask three questions of RSL Soapbox to see how the fanbase is dealing with some real deep issues. These teams have retained cores for awhile, so there aren't many surprises when facing each other.
1) Real Salt Lake beat Chivas USA in its final match of the regular season, and fans had a RIP Chivas tifo to boot. How has the fanbase reacted to the news, considering the teams came into the league together?
The RSL fans that have been with them from the beginning are probably a bit resentful of the fact that most people expected Chivas USA to be a model franchise in MLS while the same majority thought that the new Salt Lake franchise would not survive for long. Even in and around Salt Lake City, there was a lot of pushback to getting a professional soccer franchise off the ground. Real Salt Lake has proven to be a standard-setter and the epitome of consistency since about 2009. Now the Real Salt Lake fans are having the "last laugh" in a way, not just at Chivas USA but at all those that were naysayers in 2005.
2) Kyle Beckerman has been through a Dispersal Draft before, but now he's RSL's World Cup star. Is he the key to how the team performs, even if he's not piling up goals and assists?
For me, Kyle Beckerman is the engine for Real Salt Lake. During the World Cup stretch, that was when Real Salt Lake struggled the most in 2014. That is not a knock on Cole Grossman who got the most minutes in his position at that time, but a recognition that few if any players in MLS have the skillset that Beckerman has in his position as a holding midfielder. He is selfless in his play to maintain possession, he breaks up plays over and over again, and he can distribute the ball going forward with precision. As you say, even if he is not piling up goals and assists, he is the emotional leader of the team.
3) Nick Rimando has never won Goalkeeper of the Year, and despite another stellar year he's once again facing stiff competition. Would it be a travesty if he finished his MLS career without a ‘keeper of the year award?
It would be absolutely ridiculous if Nick Rimando did not win Goalkeeper of the Year during his career. I have a hunch that this is his year for the award, but even if he did not win the award, his statistics speak for themselves. He leads MLS in total shutouts and by the end of his career will have set a milestone that will be extremely difficult for any keeper after him to reach. If soccer fans know anything about him, it is that he is shorter than the average goalkeeper and that his penalty kick save rate is incredible. He saves about one out of every three penalty kicks taken against him. He has had as good of a year in goal in 2014 as he has ever had, so if he does not win the contest this year, I don't think it will ever happen.