I am going to start with a personal rant, if you saw my tweets during the Capital One Cup final you know I am not a fan of cutesy PK attempts, that includes exaggerated stutter steps. Javi has made it work for him more often than not but I have never been a fan of it and tonight it bite RSL in the ass in a moment when a goal was needed most.
OK, with that out of the way. Wow, that was a hell of a match for RSL, a bit of a slow start but soon RSL put their foot on the gas and applied great high pressure causing all kinds of confusion for Tigres and especially for their keeper who seemed on the edge of a nervous breakdown until stoppage time. It was clear that RSL frustrated Tigres in the first half of the match, the insanely high line at times, great pressure on the ball, and players showing no fear of the Liga MX side. While there were mistakes made, none were costly until there was nothing left on the clock and desperation forced RSL to play to either score a goal or give one up, and unfortunately they gave one up.
I am going to start at the back and work my way forward with my thoughts on the individual performances tonight.
Nick Rimando had little to do tonight and you can’t really pin the stoppage time goal on him, it was all or nothing time. It is good to know that match in and match out we have one of the very best keepers the league has ever seen.
The back line was as I expected with Chris Wingert starting in place of Demar Phillips, Jamison Olave, Aaron Maund and Tony Beltran. Until the huge clash of heads late in the match that sent him to the bench and will send him to the doctors with a huge knot on his head I thought this might have been the best match Maund has had with RSL. His passing in our final third was spot on, but the further up the pitch the less accurate his passing became but he made some great tackles and didn’t get pulled out of position often. Both Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran pushed forward huge amounts tonight but both were also able to keep aware and effective on the defensive half as well. Jamison Olave was a force on set pieces and pushed high to help RSL keep possession on several quality efforts. If these guys can play defense like this all year the numbers should be impressive.
The midfield was fun to watch, despite looking like he was still feeling very under the weather, Javier Morales continues to play like a man much younger than his 36 years would have you believe possible. Sunny appears to not only be the real deal but to has seemed to have adjusted to his new teammates more quickly than often happens in MLS, he plays with great energy and has a natural style to his game that is fun to watch. Kyle Beckerman like Javier Morales seems to have found a way to keep getting better in this his 16th year in MLS. The work rate and quality tonight from our midfield was very impressive, and like the defense if they can match this intensity and quality all season it is going to be a fun thing to watch.
Our forwards, I am not sure what I can say about them other than I expect if this match were played in 4 weeks that RSL scores 2 or 3 more goals. Plata is so fun to watch as he simply is fearless no matter what situation he is put in, no matter how much larger the defender may be, he doesn’t seem to know how to back down, and I love it. Yura had a couple chances tonight that I expect will more often than not find the back of the net, but his work rate on and off the ball was impressive, he didn’t give Guzman (the Tigres keeper) a minute to think or gather his breath. I also loved that Yura kept encouraging the RSL faithful fans to make more noise to get into the match (it is a shame in such a big match that he had to), it is clear that he enjoys being back here and is hungry to help carry RSL to better results. Then there is “Burrito”, he seemed to be everywhere tonight, and while I think his play acting at times may have frustrated the Tigres defenders, he sure made them work for their paycheck tonight. Like the rest of the team, if we can keep this work rate and intensity all year, then I have little doubt that we will see a whole lot more goals this year than we did last year.
RSL’s subs – Olmes Garcia came on in the 84th minute for Yura Movsisyan, and with the Tigres defense bunkered in it was was hard for him to find much room to use his pace, but I think in other situations him coming on late will create havoc for tired defenders. Jordan Allen came on in the 89th minute for the injured Aaron Maund, again hard to make much impact with just minutes to play, but I think Jordan is going to be a very important player this year.
It is a shame when you see guys put it all on the line and get nothing for it, and I hope that none of our players hang their heads. I didn’t want us in the Champions League for many reasons, but the biggest one is that by losing something so important before your season even begins it can do a lot of damage to a team psychologically. I hope like me that the RSL staff and players can now look back at these last two matches as an extension of the preseason, and use them as motivation going into the MLS season opener on Sunday and the home opener next weekend. I do still believe that RSL needs at least one more high quality CB, and we will need to see good things from several guys who haven’t delivered the last couple seasons but I now have my hopes higher for this season than I did just 3 weeks ago.
That’s How I See It