Saturday was an interesting day for Real Salt Lake, the last match of a three match homestand that saw the team upset by a makeshift LA Galaxy squad last weekend, and preparing for a 3 match road trip. The team could even out their record with a win, a loss would have left the team with a lot more questions. Injuries would once again play a major role in the match as Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley, and Olmes Garcia wouldn’t see action, leaving Devon Sandoval and Joao Plata to get the start and the majority of the minutes. The match also saw the first start of the 2013 season for Chris Wingert, and the debut of Carlos Salcedo, the first of RSL’s HGP’s to see action in a MLS match.
You could tell that the changes to the roster caused some issues early on as passing and communication seemed to be a bit off, but RSL was able to rebound in the second half and be much more dynamic in the attacking third. Just when you thought Nick Rimando couldn’t be a more important piece of the RSL puzzle this season, he goes and picks up an assist on the first RSL goal, his outlet finds an on charging Plata with precision accuracy, Plata then feeds the ball into the area and Luis Gil once again uses his head to put the ball into the back of the net. How pretty was the play, well it is up for goal of the week.
RSL kept up the attack as they looked for a second goal against a Whitecaps side that was showing signs of fatigue as the second half progressed, once again it would be Plata who would be able to find an open Javier Morales in the area for the goal, but the build up of the play was just as fun to watch, a great pass by Devon Sandoval, the toughness of Sebastian Velasquez to not lose the ball despite being manhandled, and then the vision of Plata and the finishing of Morales. It is those types of team goals with multiple passes that are the trademark of RSL’s style, and while I often find myself wishing for more guys to step up and take shots earlier in the process, this goal was a textbook example of why I should sometimes just shut up.
The result is what you expect at home, but probably not what you expect with the 8 different forward pairing of the season, yet we continue to see guys pushed into providing minutes and effective minutes and that will really help RSL as the season goes along. Another shout out to Nick Rimando who picked up his 102nd clean sheet of his MLS career, putting him just 10 off the all time record held by Kevin Hartman, with 24 matches to go the record is something that I believe can be reached this season.
Speaking of keepers, it was interesting to bump into Josh Saunders in the tunnel after the match and see how comfortable he is with RSL. He understands that Nick is playing some amazing soccer right now, but he also knows that he has to keep pushing him and be ready as the long summer will provide some minutes for him. I mentioned how amazing it was to see the two time defending MLS Cup Champion keeper in goal on Sunday in a reserve match, he just smiled. I have to believe that while Josh would love to be starting in goal, that being a part of a team like RSL, is just as important. I hear it again and again from players that it is just different here, and different in a way that they really seem to enjoy and embrace.
Finally, while it is hard to beat a home win for RSL, what about Lexi Walker? Who is Lexi Walker you ask, just one of the most talented 11 year olds I have ever heard sing a song, her rendition of the National Anthem on Saturday was simply amazing, I really hope that the folks at RSL can get her back to sing it again at one of the USMNT matches this summer.
That’s How I See It