So let me be clear, there were some very pretty moments in the match for RSL and one only has to listen to Brian Dunseth remind us that Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez is “Killing careers one vine at a time” or read what RSL head coach Jeff Cassar had to say after the match
“I wish I knew what he was going to do every time because he does some really special things. He (Martinez) got out of some really tricky situations. All of our attacking players are extremely talented and when they’re playing with each other you can do special things you can do some things that you don’t necessarily think are going to happen because you trust the player that is giving the ball to you. I think that we can still get even better. That is what is exciting.”
to understand there were some simply amazing moments on Saturday night. Still if you watched the match you know how bad the first 20 minutes or so looked as Vancouver came out like it was a playoff match and were pressing high and causing chaos for the RSL defense. Still despite the early mistakes and pressure, RSL didn’t give up a goal in fact RSL created a few good chances on counters early on but were unable to get the early goal. I think the biggest difference between last year and this year (so far) is that in ugly close matches last year we lost leads and often lost matches. So far this year even when we have lost leads, we have managed not to lose those matches, we have recovered or withstood adversity early on this season and as things get better (play, form, fitness, injuries) results should stay very good.
So it is hard to discuss a match like the Vancouver one, when there were a lot of things that went wrong, but those things didn’t hurt us, but they just as easily could have. I think the most impressive part of the match was the way the adjusted midfield played, and how Burrito often played back as part of the midfield, but without Javi, without Sunny, we saw hard work from both Luke Mulholland and John Stertzer which often wasn’t pretty but ended up being effective. I was impressed with how things played out once Jordan Allen came on later in the match, the wealth of riches that RSL will have in the midfield and up top when everyone is healthy is as good as anyone in MLS. I still have some questions at CB, but they are doing enough to get the job done.
I had hoped that RSL would be able to pressure Vancouver the way DC did, but the Whitecaps played very tough and RSL was only able to get a 13 to 11 edge in shots, and actually had fewer shots on goal 4-5, but the one that mattered was the incredible shot from Burrito. It was another match were Yura’s role didn’t show up on the stat sheet but I believe for the 4th time this year he hit the frame, and when those start to go 3-4 inches the other way things are going to be a lot of fun.
In net Nick Rimando was once again Nick Rimando, the number of matches that he has kept RSL in is simply staggering and we should never lose sight of the impact he makes on matches. I wasn’t surprised to see Demar Phillips get the start, and I think it was the best match he has played for RSL since arriving. I thought Tony Beltran had his hands full with the Whitecaps attacking efforts, but he once again held his own and tried to keep things in front of him, not easy with their speed and athletic abilities. Justen Glad showed that he is still a young player, learning and developing, with that comes matches that aren’t always the best and I think we saw one of those on Saturday. Next to him was Aaron Maund, who while I still have long term questions about, continues to develop into a much better defender than I often give him credit for being. I still would like to see RSL add some depth at CB, but given how the backline has gutted out the last couple of matches gives me a bit more confidence in them.
It was funny to see a few national pundits wondering if RSL’s top 3 might not be among the best in MLS, and I think once we get Yura’s touch off the frame and into the net, there will be little to no doubt. When healthy I can’t think of a trio of forwards that present so many options for RSL and so many problems for teams trying to defend them.
So I have to say that the ugly win against Vancouver felt really good given how the last couple years have gone against them. There is no rest for RSL as they head to LA to take on a Galaxy side that looked really good in beating up Houston last week. Then a final home match for 6 weeks against that Houston side, if RSL leaves for their extended road trip still unbeaten that will be a very nice thing.
That’s How I See It