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.
Still at the end of the match we were 1/4 of the way through the MLS season, RSL was the only team undefeated. RSL is on a pace to end up with more points than last year (1.75 pts per match this year, 1.67 last year) and that isn’t the only reason to be positive despite some things not going our way. Last year RSL scored 57 goals (1.68 per match) while giving up 41 goals (1.21 per match) which was great and had RSL within 3 points of the Supporters’ Shield, and 1 point away from winning the West and qualifying for Champions League. So after 8 matches we have scored 13 goals (1.63 per match) which is down a very slight amount, but with just 8 goals allowed (1.00 per match) the gap between scoring and defense is in better shape than it was last year.
So while I feel the pain the RSL fans are feeling, it was a couple of lost points that kept us from hosting MLS Cup last year, or winning the Shield and we point to some late match lost points against Philly and SKC as the keys last year, I do think we need to be honest about things as well. We knew this schedule was going to be fairly brutal, 6 of first 10 on the road, 2 of our 3 matches against LA in the first month of the season, having to play at SKC, a playoff rematch with Portland, and a very revamped Toronto FC side. Did you think RSL would come out of that without a loss? I didn’t. Did you think RSL would be just 2 points off the top of the table after the first 8 matches, I didn’t. Listen we know that a complete revamp of our staff was huge, we know that we had some early season injuries, and we know that we will start to lose our World Cup players in weeks to come.
The truth is that we need to be supportive, yes that means in good times and in bad times (something far too few RSL fans remember) as we have had it so good for so long. So while a couple of blown leads at the end of matches hurt, folks take it all in perspective of the season and to be honest the last 5 years of success that we have had. Remember how the relationship we have between the fans and team is something that is so very unique in MLS and unheard of in professional sports. So yes losing sucks, oh wait we still haven’t lost yet. OK, not winning every single match sucks, but that simply isn’t realistic so we need to take things with a dose of perspective. The goal all along was to be in a decent place until after the World Cup, to get our players back from that and make a strong run in the final months of the season as we prepare for another playoff run, and everything is feeding into that goal.
That’s How I See It