It was an interesting match on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the pace of the match was almost frantic, the style was almost brutal at times, and it was entertaining for 90 minutes. RSL saw both Robbie Findley and Luis Gil score their first goals of the 2013 season, proving that Alvaro Saborio isn’t the only RSL player who can score. Rookie Devon Sandoval made his first start for RSL, and didn’t disappoint as he quickly won over fans with his high energy and ability to create chaos for the Sounders. While Robbie went out early with an injury sustained on his acrobatic goal, which hopefully will not be too serious, it allowed Joao Plata to get his longest appearance of the season and he delivered some quality play.
So I have to tell a little story about the match on Saturday that I am sure will amuse some, so I often pick on some of the Sounders fans (it really is a minority of them) that act as if MLS didn’t exist until they entered the league, and like history will show of the US vs Costa Rica match in Denver, there are a lot more people who say they have followed the Sounders for decades than actually ever showed up at their USL matches (at least the ones I attended in the late 90’s and early 00’s). On Saturday during the second half their was a lone Sounders fan sitting in the front row of one of the North end section, just behind where I was talking pictures and while I understand fans being upset when their team is losing, this guy made me laugh. Every call by the official that went RSL’s way was deserving of his taunts because the official was clearly wrong, despite this guy having no angle to view any of the calls. Had I not been in an “official” role with my credentials to take pictures, I would have loved to turn around and ask him if he bitched and moaned this much when the Sounders won a match, which of course would have been followed by a “oh wait you haven’t yet this year” type of snide comment. Instead I just chuckled, and as the match ended I turned around to talk to him but he was gone, as the RSL fans told me he had “pouted” off in a storm when it looked like his team wouldn’t get a result. Now almost every fan thinks the official is wrong when they go against their team, I get that, it was the unabashed way in which he so clearly didn’t care about what was actually happening, but rather just watching the match thru what clearly had to be rave green glasses that was kinda amusing. I did fear that he might get a punch in the mouth at a couple of points but clearly the nearby RSL fans were much nicer than I am.
Still I have to expect that the disappointment of a slow start to the season for the Sounders was probably more of the root cause of his agony than anything in particular on Saturday night. I don’t doubt that many of the players probably felt a similar level of disappointment given the result on Saturday, they seemed to be caught off guard with the way RSL started the match, and to be honest most RSL fans probably were as well. It has been a couple of season since we have seen RSL come out with their foot on the gas the way they did on Saturday, but I thought a fast start would be the key and with a goal in the first 10 minutes and a second before halftime it. I can’t remember a time when RSL took 16 shots in a half, but without some huge saves by Seattle’s Michael Gspurning this match could have really gotten out of hand in that first half.
It would have been easy for the Sounders to turn off after going down two goals on the road and just start to focus on their upcoming CCL series with Santos, but they didn’t instead like a team that is much better than their record, they continued to battle. If you look at the stats of the match, you can see that while RSL seemed to dominate the offensive side of things, thing like possession, passing, and such were almost dead even between the two sides:
- RSL had a 50.6% to 49.4% edge in possession
- RSL had 369 passes to Seattle’s 349 – I don’t ever remember a home match with such a close number.
- Passing Accuracy was 78% for RSL, 76% for Seattle – Again very close numbers
It was when you looked at the offensive stats that RSL’s domination of the match became clear:
- 25 shots for RSL, 8 for the Sounders
- 10 shots on goal for RSL, 4 for the Sounders
- 7 corner kicks for RSL, 3 for the Sounders
- and of course the 2 to 1 edge in goals
I think for me the shots taken, and the response to them for RSL was one of the most positive takeaways from the match. For too long RSL players have looked a bit hesitant to take shots from distance, and sometimes shots in general, as if they were always looking for some better options. On Saturday, they fired shots when they had the opportunities and those shots often lead to other shots off blocks or rebounded saves and opened the door for RSL to have a good number of players in dangerous positions and to create scoring chances. While RSL scored two goals, they could have easily scored several more if it weren’t for some great defending and a keeper who is one of the best in MLS.
Those chances early I thought created even more energy and with RSL applying a lot of pressure on the ball no matter where it was on the pitch, caused some chaos for the Sounders which created more chances. I remember looking up at the clock and being amazed at how quickly the match was going, that also caused me to often catch myself watching the action as much as I was actually taking pictures. Here are a few of the ones that actually turned out:
The Sounders fans were clearly no happy even before the match started
RSL fans were in a better mood
Robbie would land and tap the ball into the goal to give RSL the lead
Joao Plata is great at bringing lots of energy to the match
and no matter who scored Joao loves to celebrate, Luis Gil is at the center of the celebration
It was great to see Javier Morales on the pitch for the first time this year.
Anyhow time to get ready to head out to the RSL vs BYU exhibition/reserve match at Rio Tinto Stadium, hope to see you there.
That’s How I See It