Oh Saturday night was one of emotional swings that RSL fans probably haven’t felt since December, the energy in the stadium in just minutes into the game as RSL takes an early lead on a great goal by Joao Plata. Then to follow that up just minutes later with Ned fighting through some tackles in the area to get the ball to Sabo who curves an amazing ball into the net to give RSL a 2-0 lead in under 10 minutes. It doesn’t get much better than that, and you could see the confidence start to bubble up both with the players and in the stands. The guys played perhaps the best 45 minutes of the season (so far) and it was a joy to watch as things just seemed to click.
Then came the second half, and upon hearing that Whitecap head coach Carl Robinson was rather boisterous in his halftime talk, the result was a Vancouver side that played better, pressured the ball better, started to use some of their pace better and their subs were spot on as the match progressed. While usually we see teams start to suffer from the elevation later in matches but the weather conditions seemed to have negated that normal advantage RSL gets, and it showed as the match entered the last 10 minutes and stoppage time.
Now on twitter after the match I mentioned that Jeff Cassar has said often that he would likely make more aggressive subs than what Jason may have made, it is just his style and clearly with the subs on Saturday (as well as the bench selection). Hindsight is always easy, and it was always funny how fans questioned Jason’s choices to go a bit more defensive minded when fans wanted more offense, and now with more offensive minded choices by Jeff, I find myself, and others wondering why those weren’t more defensive changes.
So if you listened to Soccer Morning on the 11th you heard Jason interview Daniel Gordon who is the director of the ESPN 30 for 30 piece called Hillsborough that will air on April 15th 2014, the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
What does this matter you might ask? For me it is part of the reason I am a Liverpool fan, and on April 15th 1989 was the first time I really became aware of LFC as the events of Hillsborough came to light. I had been to soccer matches (MN Kicks of old NASL, Eintracht Frankfurt while stationed in Germany) in the past but wouldn’t consider myself a fan and it would be a good number of years before I would come to follow the sport more closely. The events of Hillsborough however stuck with me, and while news wasn’t nearly as easy to find out as it is in the age of the internet, I tried to follow this story for a couple reasons. First, the simply tragedy of people attending a sporting event and paying for it with their lives had a mesmerizing effect on me, I was a huge sports fan and something like this just seemed alien to me. Second was the fact that clearly the story was being managed by the media and others, and it sure seemed like there was a lot more to the story than what was being let on. Whenever there is a tragic event people point fingers (you only need to watch the news on any given night to see this), but this was a bit odd that those in charge of the match were pointing fingers at the victims and that just didn’t sit well with me.
As time went on I became more of a soccer fan, thanks to the 1994 World Cup and the launch of MLS (the old days at the Horseshoe, or Cotton Bowl) and slowly as the internet and cable/satellite TV provided coverage of soccer from England and Europe I found myself drawn to follow Liverpool, in part due to the passion, grit and refusal of their fans to allow the injustices of Hillsborough to sit. If you don’t know much about what happened, well here is a short video Sky Sports did on the 20th anniversary:
It was about 6 years ago that I started writing about Hillsborough, and while those first couple of blogs posts have been lost to history. Here are the links to the last 4 years:
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
So there are two meanings to that title, first is that RSL in 6 meetings has never lost to the Union, and of course RSL will look to remain undefeated in week 6 of the 2014 MLS regular season. Since joining MLS, the Union are 0-2-4 with 5 goals scored and 9 goals allowed against RSL. Of course they have never lost to RSL at PPL Park, a pair of 1-1 draws and a 0-0 draw in the most current match in Chester. Last year the Union came close to beating RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium but a short handed stoppage time goal equaled the score at 2-2 and crushed the hopes of the Union fans for that first victory over RSL.
This year the Union have made some improvements to their roster, they picked up Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Fred, Austin Berry and most recently Andrew Wenger and with the first 2 have started all five of the Union’s matches and has helped their midifield lift it’s level of play. The Union will likely be without Danny Cruz and Sheanon Williams both of who are recovering from injuries, of course that is a mighty short list compared to the 11 players on the RSL list (some of who are possible or probable). RSL will be without Joao Plata, Nick Rimando, Luis Gil and most likely both Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, but as has been the case since the start of the season there are guys who are stepping up to fill those spots, we saw both Rich Balchan, Abdoulie Mansally and Jeff Attinella all get their first starts of the season last week in a match where they played major roles in helping RSL keep a clean sheet in their 0-0 draw with Sporting KC.
So can RSL find a way to keep their streaks alive?
It is always fun to find out what is on the mind of the fans and those who cover the other side of MLS matches, and this week I am lucky to bring you some thoughts from Eugene Rupinski (@GolazodelGringo) who runs the show at Brotherly Game, the SB Nation blog that covers all things Philadelphia Union.
Remember last year’s Philadelphia Union? The team that came to Rio Tinto and led for all but 14 minutes of the match, only to see an equalizer scored by a 10 man RSL side in the seventh (!) minute of stoppage time? Union fans certainly do. We look back at that match as two points that could have put us into the playoffs. We spent and entire offseason looking back at that match (and the home match just four days prior against FC Dallas where they gave up an equalizer to a 10 man side in the seventh minute of stoppage time) and grinding our teeth. Most fans were incensed when the club made no moves in the beginning of the offseason. But things changed. The Union signed Maurice Edu on loan from Stoke. They signed Vincent Noguiera from Sochaux and Cristian Maidana from Rangers (the one in Argentina, not the one in Scotland) and just like that the midfield was overhauled and these issues of dropping points late to 10 man sides were a thing of the past.