It has been a very long time since RSL sat with a losing record at the midway point of the season, but at 5-6-6 that is exactly where we are. Now some will make excuses as to why we are here, off season losses of Borchers, Wingert, Grabavoy, and others, or will point to the formation change and it taking time to figure out the 4-3-3, or injuries and national team call ups. The harsh reality is we haven’t been good enough, often touted as one of the deepest teams in MLS, our first 11, our 18 man match day rosters, the 23 players with minutes and our coaching staff, simply haven’t been good enough. That is hard for any of us to hear, it is hard to say (part of why there have been so few posts lately), but it is the truth and unless we are willing to admit there is a problem, we will never solve it.
I am not going to focus on the negative too much, but let me be clear this issue is on both sides of the ball, this issue is at home as well as on the road, and while you can never take anything away from the heart and passion that most of our players play with, the results haven’t followed. At the midway point of the season we have allowed 20 goals, which if about the middle of the pack this season in MLS, 8 teams have allowed more and 10 teams have allowed fewer. As a team that has the best keeper in MLS in Nick Rimando, you would think we would be better than middle of the pack, but injuries, suspensions and other issues have kept RSL from having any real consistency on their back line except Tony Beltran.
It is on offense that perhaps the most glaring issues have been for RSL in the first half of the season, just 15 goals scored and only 1 team in the league has scored fewer (Colorado). At the halfway point of the season RSL has 3 players who have scored more than a single goal, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio with 3 each and Luke Mulholland with 2. If you want to know why I am fully supportive of the idea of RSL breaking the bank to bring back Yura Movsisyian well, there you go. Now to be fair, Jaoa Plata our leading scorer from last year has just returned to action, but at the same time a healthy Sabo has simply under produced and failed to finish chances that in the past would have lead to goals. Both Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jamie scored their first goals last week, but both guys that RSL paid huge transfer fees for, and large salaries either have to deliver or we have to make changes.
Then there is the league leading 5 red cards, 2nd worst 37 yellow cards and while we are the 11th place team in fouls committed, we are the 2nd most fouled team. Yeah something about these numbers really make me question the officiating in MLS, but that is for another day. So Saturday night can RSL start the second half of the season on the right foot?
June was the make or break month for me on the season, and I am very pessimistic at this point on if we will even make the playoffs, let alone reach the 15 win/ 50 point mark. We will end June facing a team with similar issues to RSL, the Columbus Crew but while a lot of our issues are on offense, most of theirs are on the defensive side with 23 goals allowed. Like RSL they have managed just 5 wins so far this season, but in a weaker Eastern Conference they find themselves sitting in a playoff position despite having just 20 points in their 16 matches.
How have the Crew done it? Easy, they have the leading scorer in MLS with Kei Kamara, who has 12 goals in 16 matches (yes RSL have scored just 3 more goals as a team than he has). There has been decent support beyond just him, as the Crew as a team have scored 23 goals so far this season.
The RSL defense is going to really be tested on Saturday, Schuler is with the Monarchs, I believe Olave is still hurt, Phillips is suspended, and I believe that Elias Velasquez has stayed in Guatemala both due to work permit issues but also as part of his national team call up for Gold Cup. So when facing the top scorer in the league, RSL will be without their 3 top centerbacks #Yikes.
The RSL midfield will be getting back Kyle Beckerman for a match before he heads off to national team duty, but will be without Javier Morales. I expect that Luis Gil will get a chance to try to prove why he wanted that #10 jersey this off season. I thought both Luis and Jordan Allen showed a lot in the last 20-30 minutes against the Red Bulls on Wednesday, where RSL was down two men but kept the Red Bulls from being able to take advantage of it. With Luke having played 160 minutes already this week could we see both Jordan and Luis get a start with Kyle behind them in the 4-3-3?
So while the goals still aren’t coming the way we all would like them to, I will say the last two matches I have liked what I have seen from the trio of Jaoa Plata, Devon Sandoval & Sebastian Jamie, the work rate has been incredible in the last two matches but can on a day that will top 100 can we ask Devon to go that hard again (he has 180 minutes in the last two matches)? With Sabo still in the doghouse and going to be gone for the next month on national team duty, it will be interesting to see how RSL lines up on Saturday night.
There are a couple things playing into RSL’s favor on Saturday night, the first of which is that the Crew are awful on the road. 0-4-3 with only 4 goals scored and 12 allowed. RSL is 3-1-4 at home with 10 scored and 7 allowed, and the home team is almost always the favorite in MLS. It is interesting that neither of these teams has lost when they score the first goal, RSL is 5-0-1 and the Crew are 4-0-3, a slight edge to RSL, but the Crew do get credit for having given up the first goal and coming back to win once this year, something RSL still hasn’t done. Both sides score most of their goals in the second half of matches RSL 8 of 15, the Crew 14 of 23, RSL have given up 8 of their 20 goals allowed in the second half of matches, the Crew have given up 15 of their 23 in the second half.
I honestly believe that if RSL is going to get a win to start the second half of the season, they will need at least two goals. The crew have only kept 3 clean sheets all season have given up 2 goals in half of their matches, the hard part is they have also scored 2 or more in half of their matches. I am going for a 2-1 RSL win, but folks tonight could tell us a lot about what the second half of the season is going to look like for RSL.
That’s How I See It