Every coach and player will always tell you they are playing for the win, and they are but then you have reality that sometimes says “The better team, the in form team, the deeper team wins most often” and reality is right. On Wednesday night RSL had to play a perfect match to get a win in Monterrey against Tigres and they were far from perfect, so there was no win. That doesn’t mean everything was wrong, or went wrong, there were both positives and negatives that the team can use to improve itself as the series moves to the second leg and their MLS season approaches. Recovering from a 0-2 deficit will not be easy against a quality Tigres side, neither MLS team that played their first leg at home were able to get a win vs their Liga MX opponent as both LA and Seattle ended with draws in their matches.
First a few of the positives that I saw on Wednesday, Sunny Obayan playing in his first real match for RSL looked like he both understood what was being asked of him and was able to work well with the other midfielders. That is a huge step for a player who had only a couple weeks of preseason with the team, and could be a real positive as the season moves forward. While he was playing a largely defensive role for RSL on Wednesday, during the preseason we have seen his work on the offensive side of the ball as well. In the match he attempted 24 passes, connecting on 22 of them for a 92% success rate according to the CONCACAF site, MLS had him completing 20 and missing on 4, still a great number for his first match.
Juan “Burrito” Martinez showed the ability to work well on both sides of the ball, last year when he came to RSL it was clear that he has some amazing creative abilities but with the RSL focus on defending as a team first (a point strongly emphasized this preseason) it was impressive to see how much work he did on both sides of the ball. While on offense he was constantly put under pressure by Tigres defenders and midfielders, drawing 9 fouls (Tigres committed 15 fouls total during the match). Clearly Tigres had targeted him and were able to keep him from accomplishing too much on the offensive side of things.
Nick Rimando once again showed why he is one of the very best, as he saved another PK attempt, it may not have been the best taken PK but still one can never discount how many matches RSL has stayed alive in off of the impressive gloves of Nick Rimando.
Our forwards and midfielders created opportunities but failed to capitalize on them, something typical of the early part of the season but something they must find a way to change in the second leg or it will be a very long night at Rio Tinto. I thought their movement was good, and they applied pressure on the Tigres defenders most of the night, which forced Tigres to play a good number of long balls to create offensive chances and clear the pressure.
The negatives are simply the things we knew we couldn’t do, we couldn’t let them dominate possession and create chances, but they did. Over 62% of the possession, 19 shots on the night and two goals. To be honest this match could have been one of those 5-3 matches if either side had been able to create goals from their opportunities, instead it was a pair of set piece goals that came as the result of defensive lapses that simply should’t have happened. There were plenty of yelling at each other along the back line for RSL on the night, no player was without blame but clearly if RSL wants to have a successful season somethings with have to get better and better in a hurry.
We have to finish our chances, this is a Tigres side that does give up goals but you have to put your shots on goal and in the back of the net. It is early in the season and clearly Yura Movsisyan is still finding match fitness and form, but he is the one who said he only needs one shot to score goals now in his career, we will have to see but he did force the Tigres keeper into having to push a shot wide but nobody was able to beat him on the night.
The second leg will be RSL’s shot at some revenge and you can expect a very difficult match as Tigres simply has to not lose to advance, actually they can lose 1-0 and still advance and even a 2-0 win for RSL would only push the match to extra time. Head coach Jeff Cassar thinks his side can get back into this series at home “We’re going to get ours. We showed that tonight at their field. You can look back at last year when Pumas played them in their aggregate series. Tigres won 3-0 at home, then Pumas went back and beat them 3-0 at home. We think Tigres is vulnerable in some areas. We have to exploit them, make them pay for it, then we have to make sure that we’re good and sound defensively and not give up a goal at home.”
RSL midfielder and captain echo’ed that positive mentality about the second leg “We created some chances tonight. We feel like we can create even more back at home. We just need to finish. If we can finish them, we’ll get right back in it and anything’s possible then.”
The second leg is Wednesday night at Rio Tinto, it will be chilly, it will be at elevation and for RSL to win this series they will need to score early and often and be perfect on defense.
That’s How I See It