I thought I would try a new theme for this year’s match previews, so you will have to let me know what you think of it.
Alvaro Saborio – Nothing is better for RSL than to have a fit and on form Sabo, beyond the two goals last weekend there was the work rate, the hustle that lead to him getting 4 shots with 3 on goal, that is the accuracy that we expect from one of the best finishers in MLS.
Khari Stephenson – What a very welcomed surprise was the newcomer to RSL in week 1, he put in 80 plus minutes of quality in the midfield, took two shots with one on goal, but it was watching him being able to integrate so quickly to the way RSL plays along with his new teammates that was very impressive.
Nick Rimando – Nick is always rock solid, it is probably that fact he has been so good for so long that many people take him for granted. Still with a back line that was fairly inexperienced together, he was able to pick up his 100th clean sheet. Now with Tim Howard hurt, Nick could be called into more action as part of the USMNT.
Chris Schuler - Big matches call for players to step up big, going into this season perhaps the expectations aren’t any higher than they are on Chris Schuler. This is going to be a long season, with lots of challenges to come, but if Chris continues to improve and show what he is capable of it is going to be a good year.
Chris Pontius - Without Dwayne DeRosario in the lineup Pontius is the most dangerous player on the DC United roster. Last year was a breakout season for Chris who was able to lead DC with 12 goals and added 4 assists, but without DeRo it’s a different question. DC let go Maicon Santos (7 goals & 3 assists) and Hamdi Salihi (6 goals), and that is a lot of pressure on Pontius.
Carlos Ruiz – I am sorry, I get that the guy used to score a lot of goal but we have to be honest, he has gotten older and while those 6 goals he had in 2011 for Philly might have caught DC’s eye to bolster a weakened striker group. I just don’t see it. That being said, Ruiz has 5 goals and 3 assists against RSL in just 604 minutes of action, that scares me a bit.
James Riley – Another season, another team for James Riley, and I just don’t get it. He has played in at least 24 matches each season since 2007, but teams still have let him go, I don’t get it. He is good on the ball, able to work up the sides to support the attack, he is tough and doesn’t back down from anyone. I think DC scored in picking him up from Chivas USA, and I am just a bit confused why this guy can’t find a home in MLS.
The Original Supporter Groups – I give credit where I think it is due, and back when Portland and Seattle were drawing a couple of thousand fans to their USL matches, the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava were leading the way for MLS Supporter groups. So while the media might jump all over the johnny come lately groups, my hat is always off to the originals.
RSL’s new found speed vs. a suspect back line for DC United - I am sorry when I look at the projected back line for DC of Daniel Woolard, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, and Chris Korb, I wonder how that group will be able to deal with the speed of Robbie Findley and Joao Plata up top, Sebastian Velasquez and Luis Gil in the midfield, Tony Beltran and Abdoulie Mansally from the back line? I think we say how speed was able to trip them up last week, which lead to a PK attempt (which was saved) but also lead to several other chances for Houston. Some of that clearly came from it being the first match of the season, but there was a lot of luck for the DC back line and Bill Hamid that kept it from being more than a 0-2 loss. They left a lot of room for Houston to take advantage of, and with the speed of RSL creating more space for Alvaro Saborio, I think it will be another long day for the DC defense.
A win for RSL will be difficult - History is a strange thing, a lot of people love to quote that “History repeats itself” and there are plenty of modern quotes like that but what most people are referring to is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. For Real Salt Lake, there has never been a victory at RFK Stadium, the team is 0-4-3 with a negative 11 goal differential. Of the last 4 MLS matches played between the two teams at RFK there have been two 4-1 losses (2011, 2008), but also two 0-0 draws (2009, 2010). It is a part of RSL’s history, and nobody will forget it, the question is has RSL learned from some of those big loses at RFK? It will be a tough match, every team gets up for their home opener and DC United has some of the best fans in the league, it should be an entertaining match and I am going to pick it as a 1-1 draw. But, anything can happen.
That’s How I See It