I sure didn’t pick RSL to be this good, this soon but heading into a long road trip in a couple weeks it sure will be helpful to have gotten off to such a positive start to the season. The reality is but for a few last minute mistakes RSL could be sitting at 5-0-0, despite already having given up 2 PK’s and having been given a league leading 3 red cards. So a 3-0-2 start is a very good way to have started the season, despite the injuries and suspensions.
Perhaps the strong start is actually a result of these things, RSL has already had 19 players see first team minutes, has gotten goals from 6 different players. No player has gotten off to a hotter start than Joao Plata, with 4 goals and 3 assists, but the performances of several guys has been noteworthy, including how quickly Sunday “Sunny” Stephen has adjusted both to RSL and MLS. The second serving of Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez has been better than the first as he has shown the ability to be as creative as any player in MLS with the ball at his feel, and as Javier Morales returns from injury the options for RSL simply make the job of picking just 11 starters difficult for Jeff Cassar.
Vancouver owned RSL last year, winning all 3 matches against us by a combined 7-1 scoreline, in fact RSL hasn’t beaten Vancouver since Jeff took over as head coach we are 0-4-2 against them. This year’s Whitecaps side has struggled to start the season, after a pair of losses to start the season, Pedro Morales carried them to wins at Seattle and over Houston, but he left injured against the LA Galaxy a match the ended in a 0-0 draw and then last weekend at DC United they got beat badly by a pair of former RSL’ers as both Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio put in two against them in a 4-0 loss. To be fair the Whitecaps have battled injuries since the start of the season, and of their 6 goals 4 have come from the PK spot. In fact each of the 6 goals they have scored this year have come from a set piece, something RSL will want to avoid giving them.
So with one team scoring all their goals from set pieces, and RSL having suffered a number of questionable calls that lead to goals or other game changing events, this was going to be a match in which the ref got a whole lot of attention. Eyebrows were raised when Allen Chapman was originally assigned the match, given the awful match he called last week in the LA vs Portland match. Chapman was pulled from the match and instead it will be Ismail Elfath who will be making the calls on Saturday. One thing is for sure I could go for a few RSL matches where the bad calls (either way) weren’t a talking point after the match.
I am not sure if Javi will start the match but as we saw last week that he was able to get some minutes against Colorado. I have to expect that RSL will likely go with the same starting lineup this week, given that the side got their first clean sheet of the season last weekend.
Beltran – Maund – Glad – Wingert
Sunny – Beckerman – Mulholland
Burrito – Yura – Plata
An almost ideal starting lineup for RSL, we could see Demar Phillips in for Wingert who is still dealing with a broken nose, but I expect like Javi that it will be a gameday decision.
Keys to the match:
- Take advantage of ball watching – In watching Vancouver last weekend, on defense they seem to lose their marks at time and get caught ball watching. RSL will need to use quick passing to take advantage of that and with several guys who can score, finding an open man will be important. DC was able to create a ton of chances, they took 25 shots with 14 on target, would love to see RSL get at least 20 shots taken on Saturday.
- Don’t give up set pieces in dangerous places – Vancouver hasn’t scored a goal from the run of play yet this year and while they have a lot of potential weapons, RSL must play contained and disciplined as to not give up anything that could allow the Whitecaps to add to their set piece goal total.
- Apply smart pressure – Teams that have to change lineups often tend to make mistakes, Vancouver last week showed that they couldn’t handle a lot of high pressure and made some bad turnovers. RSL has shown they can play the high pressure game and do it well, I would love to see us start out with a huge amount of pressure on the ball no matter where it is.
This is a match that RSL should be able to win at home, but teams often look to rebound after big defeats so they will need to be careful as this is the team that beat RSL 4-0 last August last year. The Whitecaps have given up 10 goals in their 6 matches this season, despite having one of the leagues best keepers in David Ousted but with a backline that simply is a mess of inexperience and inconsistency so you could see the RSL attack take full advantage of it.
The chances of this ending up in a 0-0 draw is probably the same as those given to Leicester City at the start of the EPL season. Yeah I went there. You will want to stay in your seats until the final whistle, of the 16 goals allowed by these two teams, 8 of them have come in the final 15 minutes of their matches, and 7 of the 15 combined scored goals have come in the 30 minutes of their matches.
So I am going to pick this as a 3-1 RSL win, with a good dose of momentum heading into next weeks match at LA.
That’s How I See It