So in a match that on paper RSL should have had no struggles with they did as for the 3rd straight time hosting a lower division team in US Open Cup action, RSL gave up the first goal, and for the second time in those 3 matches they spotted their opponents a two goal lead. I get that we often see RSL go with a mixed lineup of players, with some bench or reserve guys getting minutes and that can lead to a disruption of the normal chemistry, but there is still little excuse in giving up the first goal in matches like this.
RSL’s starting lineup was: Jeff Attinella, Boyd Okwuonu, Jamison Olave, Aaron Maund, Chris Wingert, Luke Mulholland, John Stertzer, Burrito, Javier Morales, Jordan Allen and Devon Sandoval
There simply is no reason why this group was unable to be successful against a decent Wilmington side, but the failure to use our width and little success getting the ball into dangerous places simply was disappointing. Clearly the Hammerheads had studied up on RSL and they knew how to disrupt our passing lanes and were good at knowing when to apply pressure and where. Too often Burrito was forced back into the midfield to help out, Jordan Allen saw the ball too infrequently and when Devon would hold the ball up, few others got into positions to support the attack. All of this left RSL with limited chances in the first half, mainly set piece efforts and shots from distance.
A 34th minute goal by Wilmington gave them the 1-0 lead, which they held onto to end the first half. RSL made no changes at halftime and while guys played with a bit more energy, they were unable to get a tying goal. Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan came on in the 56th minute to boost the RSL offense, replacing Devon Sandoval and Body Okwuonu (Jordan Allen moved to the backline as Plata took over up top). The change disrupted things for a few minutes and Wilmington was able to add a second goal in the 58th minute to take a 2-0 lead.
The second goal really seemed to wake RSL up as they took 14 shots in the final 30 minutes of the match, including the two goals. overall RSL had 30 shots on the night, 24 in the second half and extra time. The pressure applied by RSL go get back into the match is the intensity they frankly needed at the start of the match. It wasn’t long before Plata (65th minute) and then Burrito (86th minute) scored and the match was level at 2-2 with RSL looking for a 3rd goal but the whistle blew and the team were headed to extra time, and for 30 minutes it looked a bit like Wilmington was just trying to hold on from the attacks of the now awake RSL roster which had 10 shots including 2 more on goal.
After 120 minutes of soccer it was on to PK’s where everyone is on edge and nerves can barely handle the pressure. RSL was on the front foot from the start as Wilmington missed two of their first 3, but then that damn Javi stutter step lead to a saved RSL attempt and my nerves tog going, thankfully Jeff Attinella saved the next attempt and Chris Wingert finished off the shootout by finishing his attempt and RSL won it 3-1 via the shootout.
A win is a win, but boy it would be nice to not need drama or extra time to beat lower division teams at home. This was a match with the full range of emotions and thankfully the extra day of rest and no travel before Saturday’s return to MLS should all play in RSL’s favor as they host the defending (but struggling) MLS Cup champs the Portland Timbers.
That’s How I See It