There are few people in soccer that I respect as much as I do Brian Dunseth, so when on On Frame Monday night he talked about RSL fans being on the edge and how too often we (fans) allow our emotions to push us to the negative vs understanding that one can be critical and acknowledge the positives as well. He is right, and so was Matt Gacshk as he pointed out that last year the team probably drop their heads and pack it in when they go down to 10 guys so early in the match.
Both of them will tell you that they see something different with this group than last year, I agree with them. Even in the preseason matches and practices in Tucson, it seems like there is a higher degree of accountability within the team than there was last year. I believe bringing back Yura and Chris, both guys who were here in 2009 when the team played as a team. So while as Dunny reminds us that the motto “The Team is the Star” came out of a time when the team was built around a lot of middle level salary guys and the team was successful without big name and big money DP’s, I hope and think that this year, that the mentality of playing for each other, playing for the fans and as a club being more interested in the collective good than individual glory (which can come as part of team success) will lead us to a new version of “The Team is the Star”.
Now for me this is difficult for all the reasons that we know, the fact that ending the season -10 in goal differential almost entirely came at the end of matches where we scored just 5 goals in the last 15 minutes plus stoppage and gave up 14 goals in that same time period. The reality of losing points that we should have had as 7 times matches that looked like wins or draws heading into the final minutes were turned into draws or losses. So I get why some RSL fans are ready to face palm on the season already, but a step back from the edge is probably a good thing. Let me explain why for me, things aren’t nearly as bad as some want to believe they are:
Champions League was just more preseason, now the club wanted to win, I wanted the club to win but as you know from last year I wasn’t a fan of us being in Champions League this time around. I felt it could have held us back from making some moves that were needed to change what happened last year with missing the playoffs and simply not playing up to the expected level. So for me I simply thought of the series with Tigres was 2 very high quality preseason matches, and I think it serves just that purpose. We saw the addition of Yura up top, which created some more room for Joao and Burrito, and while he is still looking to find the back of the net our offense is looking much more lethal than last year. We saw that Sunny could not only step in to our midfield as a new player and survive but who was able to play well both with our formation and his partnership with Kyle and Javi. On the downside we saw that from time to time our defense turns off mentally, the two set piece goals in Monterrey, but we also saw them show very well in the second leg and hold one of the better teams in the region without a lot of chances.
The addition of Richie Williams, now some of you might be scratching your head at this one, but I believe that Richie brings a huge amount of knowledge with him as well as providing RSL with more depth on the coaching staff. Seeing his level of involvement in practices and during matches clearly show that the staff is working as a collective unit. He brings a new level of accountability to the players, his experience as a player and coach will provide a new set of tools that should make RSL a better team.
How we view and how we support the team is up to us, it is easy for me to try to inject some humor into my match recap with a poo image(it was smiling poo), but for the horrible last 2 minutes the reality was a very solid match on the road, a team that for some reason seemed to play better down a man than they did with 11. At the same time we can be honest about the fact that while we didn’t give up goals early on in Orlando, we did give up a bunch of chances and a blown call took a Larin goal off the board. Still for a first match of the MLS season I consider the effort to be good, I consider the result to be disheartening, and while those two points may come back to haunt us later in the season it is far too early to beat our collective heads against our desks.
The 2016 MLS season is just starting, it will be a very long journey and it will be filled with huge highs and devastating lows, it like life is all about how you react to those highs and lows. Disappointment is one thing, but never allow the failure of yesterday to interfere with the desire to make tomorrow better. Never give up hope, and if you chose to stop supporting RSL that is your right, but as fans know that our pain is fleeting, and the future is always brighter than the past.
That’s How I See It