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.
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.
Sometimes out of a crisis comes something good and unexpected, this could be the case for Real Salt Lake and their injury issues. I would never wish for a player to be injured but as we have seen that when doors are opened for others, sometimes we get very pleasant surprises. I think perhaps the best half of soccer that RSL has played in a couple of years came earlier this year when we were missing a couple of the normal key pieces. It was a match where Devon Sandoval and Robbie Findley looked as good up top as Robbie and Yura used to, where the combination play of Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez featured as much energy as Andy Williams used to bring.
So now RSL faces Alvaro Saborio being out a couple weeks and several others (Robbie Findley, Olmes Garcia) having some injury issues as well, and it was interesting to hear RSL head coach Jason Kreis mention the possibility of having to adjust our formation to meet what players are fit and ready to go. It got me thinking, could RSL go with a 4-5-1? Maybe, but for me, I would love to see a try of a 4-3-3, now it is a bit risky, and I am going to put a couple players in some positions that they might not normally think of themselves in, but heck given the result last week, is there much to lose?