Well RSL will be celebrating Star Wars day (May the 4th (fourth) be with you) on Saturday as they take on the evil Whitecaps from Canada. I say evil for their tactics of diving like they are going for gold in the 3m platform, now before you go claiming I am going all homer on you, check out this quote from Whitecaps blog eightysixforever.com, when talking about the recent match between RSL and Vancouver:
The Whitecaps did dive. A lot.
Far more than a team with their caliber of players should. Plus, it wasn’t youngsters doing it to try and draw penalties, no it was veteran guys, players like YP Lee.
While slight embellishment is part of the game, Lee took it to daring new heights, diving like Greg Louganis to try and draw a penalty kick. He wasn’t even touched, and Lee acted like his legs had been taken out under him, before hitting the ground and staring at the referee, wondering where the call was.
To me the irony of the Whitecaps fans complaining about FC Dallas diving (complete with score cards in the stands) is that they seem to have few issues when their guys do it. I remember how made RSL fans got at Alvaro Saborio a couple years ago for a dive that caught the attention of the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Now to say that some players on the RSL roster don’t go down too easily would be lying, but I think overall the mentality has changed in recent years as RSL fans don’t want their players diving and flopping, I think it is a lot less than in the past or at least it sure seems that way. So on Saturday with a ref who has shown 2 red cards in the 3 matches he has officiated so far this season, I expect that we will likely once again get to watch guys like YP Lee act as if there are snipers in the rafters of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Despite Vancouver being new to MLS, they have performed well against RSL as the teams are 2-2-2 over the last 3 seasons and the Whitecaps hold a 7 to 6 edge in goals scored. It was just over two weeks ago that the sides battled to a 1-1 draw in Vancouver, RSL will be looking to get back on track with a win in the last match of their 3 match home stand.
Devon Sandoval – I think that one of the big surprises of the season for RSL has been the maturity of play from Devon Sandoval, thrust into the starting lineup from time to time due to various injuries, he has delivered exciting play at a level that few expect from a rookie. On Saturday it is likely that he will be on the pitch at the start of the match, as Alvaro Saborio will be out for a couple weeks and Robbie Findley is still dealing with a bit of an injury issue as well. He should be able to make the most of this chance as the Whitecaps defense has just one clean sheet on the season, and have given up 7 goals in their 4 previous road matches.
Ned Grabavoy – So I have been waiting for Ned to explode this year, his play has been solid, he has been good on both sides of the ball, but I believe he is capable of more. More offense, he has taken just 3 shots this year. I know that he is getting into good chances and creating chances for others, but damn we need some scoring. I want the Ned who took 37 shots back in 2007 for the Crew and ended up with 3 goals and 3 assists, maybe that is a bit greedy of me, but clearly we need our midfielders to be a bit greedier. I am going to pick Ned to go offensive and score a goal this weekend.
Nick Rimando – the last time RSL faced off with the Whitecaps it was Nick who came up big time and time again to keep the Whitecaps off the scoreboard, and only a PK could beat him on a night when he made 6 huge saves on some quality shots. We will likely need another stellar performance from Nick if we are going to get the 3 points on Saturday, it is a bad thing when you have to rely on your keeper week in and week out, but thankfully we have Nick who is good enough to deal with that type of pressure.
YP Lee – last year Lee was one of my surprise player for most of the season, quality defender who was great moving forward in the attack, but that changed this year as he has simply turned into a guy who dives and flops for the entire match. It was a bit disgusting to anyone who watched it, turning off even some of the Whitecaps fans, we know that his head coach Martin Rennie is no fan of diving and hopefully he has had a talk with his team about it. Maybe it is that the 36 year old has lost a step or two and is looking for a new way to gain an advantage?
Nigel Reo-Coker – While Lee was busy diving, Reo-Coker was busy playing a rough and tumble style of hard aggressive challenges that can push the line between foul and card, he has picked up 3 yellow cards so far this season and probably should have a few more to be honest. Still he is a disruptive force that has to be dealt with, and could pose a real problem on both sides of the ball for RSL when they try to push forward into the attack. I do like that the Whitecaps picked him up, he adds a real bite to the team that was missing without Jay DeMerit (who is out with an injury), and has several seasons left in his tank.
Camilo – The one name that for whatever reason has been directly or indirectly responsible for 6 of the 7 goals scored against RSL by the Whitecaps. He has scored 4 goals (three of them by PK) and added 2 assists, in the 5 matches he has played against RSL and that type of productivity makes him enemy number one on Saturday. At just 24 years old, this Brazilian import has shown that a combination of speed, skill, and aggressiveness can really be effective in MLS, however he is one of the few consistent offensive players on the Whitecaps roster. Given his history with RSL, you should keep an eye on what Camilo is doing at all times, I know the RSL defense will be.
Antics vs. Desperation – It isn’t often that hometown fans get fed up with the antics of their own teams or players, but as I opened this post with, it is clear that some in Vancouver have said enough is enough when it comes to the diving. I can only hope that the message sticks, the Whitecaps are a talented team with a lot of young and exciting players, they have speed in droves but I think they quickly get frustrated when things don’t go their way and they turn to the officials to give them an advantage. They are a better team than that, and that is what they need to focus on, not trying to get help from, or tricking the officials into helping them out.
For RSL, the mantra was that we had 5 of our first 7 on the road and that things would get better as the schedule balanced out. Well, this will be our 10th match, 5 at home and 5 on the road, and the record simply isn’t good enough at 3-4-2, so the pressure is on as RSL will be on the road for their next 3 and losses and draws at home simply aren’t good enough. The staff, the players, and the fans all know that not getting maximum points at home is unacceptable, so come Saturday while the fans may be enjoying the Star Wars theme, I expect that the players will be solely focused on finding a way to pick up a win over the Whitecaps.
My Prediction – If you look back just a few weeks ago to the match in Vancouver, then you look at the officiating record of Juan Guzman (24 games; FC/gm: 25.3; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 8; pens: 4), you probably get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is hard given those factors to expect this match to end up without either a red card or a PK being a major factor in the match. We have seen some questionable calls and non-calls, and I expect those on the average plays but for RSL we have seen a rash of them on big plays in and around the area. I really hope that we can have a match without big calls, because I think the styles and talent of both teams deserve to be seen.
This should be a match contested between the possession and passing of Real Salt Lake vs. the speed and counter attacking of Vancouver, it should be a very entertaining match with lots of exciting play and chances for goals. In either case you will need to keep your seatbelts fastened and make sure you are in your seats when the second half kicks off, 10 of the 13 goals scored in matches between these two have happened in the second half and 4 of the 13 have happened in the final 15 minutes or stoppage time. RSL have to find a way to score, only twice this year have we scored multiple goals, last year we scored 2 or more in 5 of our first 10 matches, I look for more shots to come from the midfield on Saturday as we look to get the ball past Joe Cannon. For RSL to get a win, I think they will need multiple goals, this match is ripe for RSL to break out and get 2-3 goals, the question will be can they keep the Whitecaps from doing the same. I pick a 2-1 win for RSL.
That’s How I See It