With the turf coming up at Rio Tinto after Saturday’s match RSL will look to rebound from their loss at LA with a win over Houston. The biggest question is what Houston team will they face, the team that scored 11 goals in their first 3 matches, or the one who has scored just 2 in their last 4? The one thing in common that both RSL and Houston have is that they both were recently spanked by the Galaxy (the best team in MLS the last few weeks).
So RSL will need to find a way to quickly put last weekend out of their minds and focus on getting the full 3 points against Houston before they head out on the road. They will do so without Plata, could be without Burrito, and have a Javi and Sunny that are still working their way back to full fitness, and facing a team that has looked to play more conservatively than they did at the start of the season. After being thrashed at home by the Galaxy, they went on the road at Columbus and played a much more defensive style and while they still ended up on the losing end of the match, they did play much better. I expect against a RSL team that has scored goals in every match, that once again on the road Houston will be looking to play defensively and hope to counter or take advantage of any RSL mistakes. While they picked up a red card early in the match against Columbus, it was back up keeper Tyler Deric who saw red and was replaced by their regular starter (so far this season) Joe Willis.
So one area of focus all year in MLS matches has been the officials, and it has been for good reason as many strange calls have been made or not made so far this year. Nima Saghafi will be the ref in charge of the match, it will be just his MLS match as the main official. In his previous match there was a red card and two PK’s given, the red card looked very legit but the PK’s had a bit more question about them. We will see how this new official handles the match on Saturday.
So let’s be honest about one thing some of the loss at LA sucked, the questions remain was it a one off or sign of trouble? It is interesting that the last time we lost like this at LA (the 2014 playoffs), it lead to RSL changing formations and making several roster changes. We were just starting to see the payoff in both of those over the first few weeks of the season, so how we rebound this week and then over the next 5 matches on the road will be very telling. I will mention this, the amount of work, heart and passion shown after going down early last week was very different than what we saw often last year when faced with adversity, this gives me hope.
It is hard to know what lineup the Dynamo may throw at RSL, but I expect they will try to hit RSL on the flanks like the Galaxy were able to do with a lot of success, now to be honest their talent level is very different than LA’s but I expect they will try. It could be nice to see some of the former RSL players who now are on the Dynamo roster in their lineup, David Horst has been there a few years and has turned into a good CB for them, both Collen Warner and Abdoulie Mansally are new to Houston this year and both have seen very limited minutes so far.
I am going to keep the keys to the match very simple, as I think making sure we do the basics right is probably a key at this point of the season.
- Sound defense – be it mistakes that lead to goals, mistakes that lead to cards, mistakes that lead to fouls & set pieces, or mistakes that go unpunished, if RSL is going to get results we have to cut down the number of mistakes. There are only so many times Nick Rimando can bail us out, or times that Aaron Maund will be on the line at the right time to save us. Sound defense is a key.
- Control the ball and pace – possession numbers can be misleading but what isn’t misleading is the ability to control the ball and dictate the pace of the match. When RSL does this, good things happen, when they don’t chaos tends to follow. Simple possession, smart passing, and confidence on the ball will lead to good things. I expect the untimely injuries to both Sunny and Javi, meant a lot of adjustments, hopefully we will get one or both of them back on Saturday.
- Get Yura going – with Plata still out, and Burrito dealing with an injury it is time for us to get those goals that Yura has promised. He has played a huge role in other ways so far this season, he has hit the frame several times and had a clear goal called off by a bad call. You know he is hungry, you know that chip on his shoulder is getting bigger, and there may be no time better than facing a team in chaos to get those goals flowing to get ready for the long road trip. In his previous stint with RSL, Yura scored twice against Houston in his 3 starts against them. I can’t imagine a better time for a brace from Yura than Saturday.
RSL won’t be back at Rio Tinto until mid June, grabbing 3 points against a Western Conference foe is huge no matter when it happens, so Saturday is as good a time as any. I expect the boys will be quick to want to put the sour taste of the loss at LA behind them, so they should come out with a good deal of fire and look for a fast start (Houston has allowed 6 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches). I am going with a 2-0 RSL win in this one, a fitting way to head out on the road.
That’s How I See It