Well Saturday night lived up to all the potential that a match between RSL and Seattle has, unlike some of the defensive battles of the past, this one was action packed from start to finish and had more goals scored as all 5 of their 2012 meetings (3 0-0 draws & 2 1-0 results). While RSL was clearly the more offensive minded team on the night, the Sounders weren’t afraid to take their chances whenever they could find them. Still with an overwhelming 25 to 8 edge in shots taken, this match could easily have seen more goals than the final 2-1 score would indicate and the sellout crowd really seemed to appreciate the almost frantic pace of the match. Just a note, this was the 7th straight sellout of a MLS match at Rio Tinto Stadium, so far this season RSL is 5th in home attendance average, not bad for the smallest market in the league.
There were a number of things that stuck out to me, first was that despite being a rookie and in his first start Devon Sandoval showed very well for himself, enough so that RSL head coach Jason Kreis was singing his praises in the post-match press conference. We saw a top notch performance from Joao Plata who had to come on much earlier than in past matches as Robbie Findley picked up an injury early in the match, but not before scoring his first goal of the 2013 season. I also thought our back line played very well, the Seattle goal came off a ball that bounced around in the area and was poked past Nick Rimando, but most other opportunities were quickly shut down by the RSL defense. It was clear that RSL kicked it up a gear for that match, and it would appear that the Sounders perhaps were a bit conflicted as they prepared for their CCL match with Santos (a match in which they would look better but still lose).
The match on Saturday wasn’t the only thing going on for RSL this week, as Monday night the RSL reserves were able to beat the BYU PDL team 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of a paid audience of over 6,000 fans. It was a John Stertzer header in the first half that was the only goal, but again this was a match where RSL played with high energy and very aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, Jordan Allen, Olmes Garcia, Coco Navarro, Stertzer, and Enzo Martinez all looked good going forward.
Then later in the week we found out that Alvaro Saborio and Nick Rimando both signed extensions to their contracts that will keep them with the team until the end of 2015. I think this is a clear indication that the RSL staff are liking what they see from some of the new and/or younger guys to instill confidence that this group is one that they think can make one of those 3 year runs at trophies. I will be honest, I think they are right. While we may not be there yet, the talent at all levels of the roster (a full 30 man roster for the first time) is exciting and while everyone isn’t there yet, it is clear that the potential for great things is there.
This week we also saw the tickets for the USMNT World Cup qualifying match against Honduras went on sale, and the initial batch sold out in 45 minutes and then the next day more tickets were released by US Soccer and those matches went as quickly as the match is a sell out. There are still tickets available for the July 13th, Gold Cup doubleheader which features the USMNT vs. Cuba, and Costa Rica vs. Belize, but I expect that one will sell out as well. It speaks loudly about RSL as an organization, Rio Tinto Stadium as a facility and about the RSL Family as fans that both US Soccer and CONCACAF would choose us to host the USMNT. No other market has two matches guaranteed, yet here in the smallest market in MLS we do. That is huge folks, and we need to ensure we live up to expectations as hosts for these events.
Back to RSL, so we are 5 matches into the season, 2-2-1 is the record, and with 7 points we are currently in 4th place in the Western Conference. Five goals scored, and 5 allowed so far this season give us a 0 goal differential. A win on Saturday would move us in front of the idle LA Galaxy. Yes I know it is early in the season but realize that 6 matches is almost 20% of the MLS season, if RSL could be in the top 3 after their first 7 matches (5 of which will be on the road) that would be a fairly impressive accomplishment given injuries, national team call ups and the schedule itself. Well now you are caught up on where things stand for RSL.
That’s How I See It