So if you looked at the stat sheet from Tuesday or watched the match you have little doubt who was the dominant team, but we live in a results driven world and for RSL the result wasn’t there. Heck you can go back to the first match in Costa Rica, where despite being down a man for 30 minutes, RSL dominated possession, passing, shots, and shots on goal, but came up short in a 1-0 loss, to know that without scoring goals from all those chances, well it is hard to win a match.
Despite the weather on Tuesday, the match was very high action and fast paced in the first half with both sides creating some good offensive chances. RSL had the better of play and had several chances to score, but as has happened too many times this year, we failed to finish those chances. It should come as little surprise to anyone that as the second half progressed that Herediano packed it in and slowed down both the pace and the match as often as they could. As the end of the match drew near we were left with a match that the official had lost control of as Herediano simply laid down, fell down, faked injuries, and even took intentional yellow cards for delay. I am left wondering if when they first started those tactics (about the 70th minute) if he had issued a yellow or two for delay if the match might not have digressed to the pathetic level it did.
Still to lay blame on the officials or tactics/antics of CS Herediano for the loss would be wrong and missing the point. In a must win match, you must score, you must take shots when they are presented to you, and must finish your chances. RSL had 11 corner kicks, 18 free kicks, and 26 crosses from open play, and despite ending up with 18 shots and 8 of those being on goal, RSL was unable to get the single goal that would have advanced them to the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
RSL looked mundane on their corner kicks, several never made it into the penalty area. On free kicks, RSL again failed to capitalize on our size advantage to create many dangerous chances. Don’t get me wrong nobody from RSL gave less than 100%, passing was crisp, RSL dominated the possession battle 69% to 31%. It simply came down to a shot off the crossbar, a couple of great saves by Herediano’s Leonel Moreira (who like RSL’s Nick Rimando may not be a big guy but has great reflexes).
This has been a season when few teams (barring San Jose) have out played RSL, and the team has turned that into what will be a new be a team high of wins (currently 17) and could be a new team high for points (tied with previous record of 56 pts), but the team also could tie their lowest number of draws (currently 5). It is that last number that is a bit disturbing for me, as you would expect a team that often has played so well and fought so hard to get more draws but with 11 losses (only LA and Vancouver will make the playoffs with more losses) I think the fact that fewer RSL players scored goals this year is clearly the issue.
Now RSL has scored more as a team lead by Sabo’s single season record for RSL with 17 which is up 6 from last year, but in 2011 13 RSL players found the back of the net and with one match to go this year that number is only 10. The impact is also seen in how many players have scored multiple goals, last year 11 players found the back of the net more than once, but this year just 8 players have done so. That means that RSL has become more dependent on fewer players to be the difference maker on offense, and I think that has left a hole when we look for offense beyond Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola. Perhaps no stat from Tuesday was more telling than the fact that Paulo Jr. didn’t take a shot all night, now he played a solid match and made some great passes but when we have a forward that doesn’t take shots (for whatever reason), we have a problem.
As RSL heads into the playoffs we know that everything will tighten up on defense both from RSL and from every team, it is just the nature of the playoffs. That means goals will take on even more importance and the pressure will be on our top guys to deliver. I have a lot of faith in both Fabi and Sabo, but it really wouldn’t hurt us if someone else could catch that goal scoring fever for the next 4-5 weeks.
That’s How I See It