Last year it was RSL that scored a couple of early goals against the LA Galaxy at Rio Tinto, but were unable to hold on, this year it was the Galaxy who were able to get two early goals but despite an onslaught they were able to hold on. The first 20 minutes of the match reminded me a lot of the match against the MN Stars last year, when several players appeared to think that they could get by with something less than 100% readiness and sharpness. It is easy to understand at one level, you are a top level athlete and you see the starting lineup for your opposition and missing are the biggest names, and in their place are several guys getting their first ever MLS start, and several others have played a bit but aren’t guys that you know much about.
The first goal LA scored was a textbook set piece play for them, they looked beyond their big targets and found a hard charging, wait for it, wait, Mike Magee who was able to get over Tony Beltran and in front of Nat Borchers to head the ball past Nick Rimando. RSL tried to answer back but it was, Charlie Rugg who would get the next goal, and less than 15 minutes into the match RSL was down 2-0. That score would hold as the LA Galaxy simply changed to a deny tactic, they would occasionally make a run on a counter attack but they simply sat back and clogged the passing lanes. LA also got some great saves from Brian Rowe, who made a couple of fingertip saves and got the benefit of the crossbar and post to help out on some saves.
Of course the headline will be that LA minus their stars got the big win, nobody will talk about the late changes to the RSL lineup as both Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley were unable to go, or that Kyle Beckerman was just returning for injury. Lost will be that for 75 minutes RSL dominated the match, because of the simple fact that our guys weren’t able to get a goal. 20 shots, 8 on goal, 601 passes, 82% passing accuracy, 72% possession, those are all great numbers but without the ability to get the goal, none of it matters. Only 4 RSL players didn’t try a shot in the match, Nick Rimando, Chris Schuler, Lovel Palmer, and Ned Grabavoy, now that last one surprised me a bit as Ned got into some great spaces on Saturday but either the LA defense collapsed down on him or he tried to make the pass.
It was a frustrating night as a number of calls were missed, this impacted both sides and you only had to listen to Mike Magee doing his sailor impersonation in the second half at missed offside calls to know that nobody was happy with the officiating. In particular the work of the asst. ref on the East side of the pitch, who either missed or simply didn’t make the call on those offside calls, as well as things like the clear elbow to the face of Olmes Garcia. Now did these missed calls impact the final result, that is a bit tougher to say, you simply never know, but it easily frustrated the fans who often let the refs know what they thought about them.
So is there a positive for RSL to takeaway from the loss, sure a lot of them but none of that will impact the standings or that 3 points were lost at home. April is now over and on to May, we should see more improvement from the team as guys have gotten more minutes. I will say that for all of you who often think players, and others are full of hot air when it comes to how difficult the RSL system is to learn, I had a chance on Sunday morning to talk with Lovel Palmer and he mentioned how this system and what guys are asked to do is very different than how other teams are run. He also mentioned how the fairly constant chances to the lineup makes it even tougher as others are also learning the system and have some different skill sets and abilities.
Saturday will present another chance for RSL to get a result against another Western Conference foe as the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town. It should be another exciting match.
That’s How I See It