I thought RSL head coach Jason Kreis would play a very heavy lineup of what many see as “B” players or reserves, and honestly many of them have seen a lot of action in reserve matches but the depth and quality of those players was too much for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are fighting for a playoff spots, to deal with.
I actually liked the lineup of Jeff Attinella, Abdoulie Mansally, Brandon McDonald, Chris Schuler, Lovel Palmer, Yordany Alvarez, Sebastian Velasquez, Cole Grossman, Luis Gil, Devon Sandoval, and Olmes Garcia, I thought it provided a lot of high energy guys with a chance to show what they can do. Several times this year the combination of Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez in the midfield has combined with Garcia and/or Sandoval to provide a very creative and high tempo look to the RSL attack, on Saturday it wasn’t all pretty but it sure was creative and high energy.
The centerback duo of Chris Schuler and Brandon McDonald looked great, and for RSL who has had some defensive challenges in recent weeks the added depth may be just what we need heading into the playoffs. It was also good to see the two way work of Mansally and Palmer, both of whom showed great diversity for RSL and the ability to shut down some very good Vancouver players, perhaps nobody had a better match under tight scrutiny than Yordany Alvarez. Yordany has played really well at times this year, but he also has made some mental mistakes that have resulted in him making reckless and dangerous challenges that have left RSL short handed, but Saturday he played in complete control and reminded us why the RSL staff like him so much.
It was of course an early goal by RSL rookie Devon Sandoval, with an assist by Lovel Palmer, that was the difference in the match, again showing that RSL’s goals come from all over the roster, Devon becomes the 9th RSL player with at least 3 goals this season. The team has gotten goals from 13 players this year, which has seen 26 different players get starts this year and 27 have seen action for RSL in MLS action.
RSL got a real boost late in the match as Ned Grabavoy came on in the 72nd minute, and helped to calm things down as Vancouver pushed to draw even. He came on for Cole Grossman, who had a very good match as he gets back into the picture for RSL.
The reason the lineup was such a departure from what is the normal RSL starting XI is simple, the Tuesday final of the US Open Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium, when DC United will come to town and battle RSL for the first trophy of the season. While many do not give the US Open Cup the respect it deserves, in recent years more and more MLS teams have put more and more into the tournament as it offers the most direct path back to Champions League action and a nice $250,000 check. That check will go directly to the RSL players, a bonus that can really be a nice thing for guys on the lower end of the salary cap.
Since the 1-0 loss at home to Monterrey in 2011, RSL has looked for a way to get back the Champions League, and another chance to get to the final of that tournament. The tournament however also allows RSL to lift a trophy for the first time since that November night in Seattle 4 years ago, cause lets be honest the RMC is nice but doesn’t really count. With the final month of the MLS regular season coming, and then the playoffs a win on Tuesday could provide RSL with the boost they need to get back to their dominating ways that we haven’t consistently seen since June.
With the results on the weekend in, or at least he ones that matter, RSL’s win on Saturday put them right back into the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield, but Seattle still controls things with their matches in hand. The Sounders do have a fairly tough schedule their last 5 matches, with every opponent either in the playoffs (Colorado, Portland, LA) or in a fight for the final spot (Vancouver and FC Dallas). They also will have to deal with national team callups that could impact both the Vancouver and Portland matches, so I don’t consider anything done until the last match has been played when it comes to the Shield.
It will be interesting to see if the performance from the guys normally on the bench or filling in for injured players will be able to provide the momentum and motivation for the rest of the roster on Tuesday night.
That’s How I See It