So I have to start this by saying I had a great time in Tucson, the weather and people were awesome there. It provided me a good chance to see RSL in action a couple times, Wednesday 3-3 draw with New England, Friday practice session, Saturday AM 4-0 in a 45 minute scrimmage vs FC Tucson, and the 1-1 draw against Columbus Saturday night. It also allowed me to get my new camera set up correctly and ready for the season, which is a very good thing.
Saturday evening was an interesting match as RSL went with almost a complete lineup of “2nd string” guys, and while that might sound like an insult, it sure isn’t meant that way. With the CCL match at Tigres coming up the choice to rest the likely starters on Saturday night seems like a natural move and it was the right thing to do. So instead we got to see some of the future guys for RSL go head to head for 60 minutes with the likely starting roster for the Columbus Crew who were the team who represented the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup in December.
So here is what your starting lineup looked like:
Boyd Okuwonu – Phanuel Kavita – Justen Glad- Chris Wingert
John Stertzer – Danilo Acosta – Jordan Allen
Emery Welshman – Olmes Garcia – Devon Sandoval
This was the lineup that faced the Crew, who had 10 starters who also started MLS Cup in December, so to say the odds might be a little bit stacked against RSL. It would have been easy to think this would be onesided but it wasn’t, and while the Crew was very dangerous with Kei Kamara causing all kinds of trouble for the RSL defenders it was RSL’s Jordan Allen that would open the scoring in the 17th minute on a great combo play with Emery Welshman. The Crew would answer back on an amazing header from Kamara in the 26th minute, no idea how he gets that high on balls like that but it is a thing of beauty to watch.
So there were some great takeaways from the match for RSL, for me the biggest thing was the development of both Justen Glad and Phanuel Kavita who were able for most of the night to keep close tabs on Kamara and keep him from getting too many clean chances. I thought Olmes Garcia looked very dangerous on the night, he made good runs and got himself into quality positions. Jeff Attinella is probably good enough to start for a lot of teams in MLS and I expect if any starter goes down with an injury this year that RSL could get a lot of phone calls about Jeff (hopefully we hang up on all of them). It was clear that these guys haven’t played a ton of minutes together as some passes were simply off target, some of the communication was rough at times as they tried to get on the same sheet of music.
For all of the preseason I had been told to keep my eyes on Danilo Acosta, and I now understand why, as this young man is very talented and while he is still young I can see why so many are excited for him. It is the same excitement we have had for Jordan Allen since he joined the first team and I expect Danilo will be pushing hard for inclusion in the 18 man rosters this year.
In the second half we saw 4 substitutions for RSL, a pair of our 2016 draft picks, 2nd rounder Max Lachowecki, who I have been impressed with as he seems to have picked things up quickly, also 3rd rounder Amass Amankona, who has a real nose for the ball and found himself in the middle of the action all the time (he did this in the morning session with the first team as well). I expect both of these guys will start the season with the Monarchs but both have shown that they have what it takes to learn our system and demand the staff pay attention to them.
The other two subs were from the RSL academy which is nearby in Casa Grande, Elijah Rice and Alec Felix got a few minutes of action with the first team and the loud support of many of the other academy players who were in attendance. It was a really fun night and a chance to see some of the younger players in the RSL family get some minutes against a very good team. If these guys continue to develop the long term future for RSL looks very good indeed.
If you want to check out my pictures from the match you can find them here.
That’s How I See It