Chivas, RSL-AZ battle for division lead

When midfielder Andrew Brody leads Real Salt Lake onto the field at Grande Sports World for its first home game opposite SoCal Division West Conference rival Chivas USA in under-15/16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy action on Saturday, he will be facing a squad that will play like the virtual mirror image of his own.

""It's going to be two very similar, very good teams playing against each other, and it's definitely going to be a tough game, mentally, physically and tactically," said Brody, whose squad is 2-0 in the division and 5-0 overall. Chivas is 3-0 in the division, 3-2 overall.

"There's definitely a lot of motivation for this game. We'd like to beat them and sort of show him that we're the better team. We respect them and their coach because of his knowledge. We know that's why it'll be tough to win, but we think that we can get it done."

The likenesses stem from the fact that Chivas coach Mike Munoz guided Real Salt Lake to a division runner-up finish last season, was named Coach of the Year, and is employing the same brand of soccer for a team that has won three straight division games after an 0-2 start.

"It's all the same philosophical game plan as far as the way that we want to play, dominating possession and the type of defending -- where they want to force the ball and where they want to win it," Munoz said.

"It's what we created over at RSL, it was extremely successful in its first year, and they have no reason to change. We've brought the same style over at Chivas. It will be a very even match up, I think."

Real Salt Lake has outscored its opposition 11-5 led by Brody with four goals, Dalton Pando with three and Coco Navarro with two.

Real Salt Lake is coming off consecutive wins over the San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1, and the Cal Odyssey, 3-2, with offensive and play-making support from Trevon Hyman and Junior Juarez, and with Corey Nemeth, Jon Zabasajja, Rodrigo Uriarte and goalie Cesar Cobos performing well on defense.

Real Salt Lake trailed 1-0 at halftime during each of the games only to rally with three-goal second halves on each occasion.

"Dalton Pando had a great second half against Cal Odyssey, and both center backs Cory Nemeth and Jon Zabasajja are defending exceptionally well. But we know that Chivas USA will be very technical in all positions," said Real Salt Lake coach John Galas.

"They'll play a very patient, possession-oriented game. They are well-coached, and have a good understanding of tempo and the rhythm of the game, which is very similar to our group.

It's no secret that RSL's go-to guy is Brody.

"Andrew does a great job of helping us to keep the ball in the midfield to possess. But when we isolate him, one on one, he's a very creative player. His goal against San Jose on Saturday, the third goal, was just a thing of brilliance," Galas said.

"Andrew got it on the left flank and took two or three players on, cut it back across the 18 and shot it far post and just absolutely buried it. He's a goal scorer, but he's also very technical and can obviously set people up as well."

Chivas has forwards Jorge Ruiz (three goals) and Romario Lomeli (two), midfielders Edzon Cuevas and Adam Arana and defenders Anthony Rodriguez and Tyler Allen in the center and on the left as its key players.

"Jorge is a very talented player, and Romario starts up top with him for me. Edzon's my attacking midfielder, and my holding midfielder is Adam Arana. Those two guys are really the spine of our midfield," said Munoz, adding that Under-15 national team player Malcolm Jones also shores up the defense.

"Edzon and Adam really lock things down for us in the middle, but I have good options out on the right and left, and I can bring different guys in for a little bit of a rotation policy on the outside players."

Chivas has the more youthful squad, but has matured following a slow start.

"The difference between RSL's current team and my team is that we're younger. I even have a 13-year-old kid who starts for me. But he's pretty special and he's definitely not out of place," Munoz said.

"That's what hurt us in the first two games the season, being that they were the first time that these guys had played an academy game. To jump from club soccer to academy matches, there was a learning curve involved."

But the learning is over for Chivas, which blanked division rival Nomads SC, 3-0, on Oct. 8 -- a week prior to RSL's scoring a 1-0 shutout of the same team.

"Mike knows our group very well, and we know Mike very well. Chivas has bought into Mike's system, so I think that it will be an exceptional game. What's led us to staying undefeated is being able to knock the ball down and being able to break down the opponent," said Galas.

"But they will play exactly the way that we play, so I think that it's going to be a bit of a chess match and some good, quality soccer and a one-goal game either way."

Real Salt Lake, game-by-game

2-1 win over Vancouver White Caps

1-0 win over Nomads SC*

2-1 win over San Diego Surf*

3-1 win over San Jose Earthquakes

3-2 win over Cal Odyssey

Chivas USA, game-by-game

3-1 loss to Santa Cruz Breakers

2-1 loss to De Anza Force

3-2 win over L.A. Galaxy*

3-0 win over Nomads SC*

1-0 win over Pateadores*

* = Denotes division games

This past weekend's top Academy goal scorers


3, Jason Romero, De Anza Force in 4-1 win over Strikers FC

2, Elie Carrasco, Georgia United in 4-4 tie with Clearwatter Chargers

2, Sebastian Ille, Georgia United in 4-4 tie with Clearwater Chargers

2, Jason Machado, Dallas Texans in 3-3 tie with Texas Rush

2, Al Musse, Vancouver Whitecaps in 3-1 win over Real SoCal


4, Kekuta Manneh, Lonestar Academy in 4-2 win over Solar Chelsea

2, Daniel Garcia, FC Dallas in 2-0 win over Texans SC

2, Michael Griswald, San Diego Surf in 2-1 win over Crossfire Premier

2, Thomas Janjigian, De Anza Force in 3-1 win over Strikers FC