So at the midpoint of the season before last weekends 1-1 draw with Montreal and then Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Vancouver I started writing a blog post wondering if the glass was half full or half empty when it comes to RSL. I have my own opinions on this that I will share but I think we have to step back a bit first and ask what are we judging this based on?
Do we compare this year’s RSL vs RSL of years past? If so what year, 2009 when we had a mediocre year but were able to make a successful run at MLS Cup, remember we were 11-12-7 and our run in large part was boosted by being moved to the Eastern Conference for the playoffs? Or do we compare to 2013, a huge year where RSL was just 3 points shy of the Supporter Shield, made it to the final of the US Open Cup and lost in heartbreaking PK’s in MLS Cup? Perhaps the most accurate would be to compare it to last year, the first time since 2007 that we missed the playoffs, where often when faced with adversity it seemed the team simply gave up at times? Is it fair after our 19th match to judge the team at all?
A lot of valid questions, for me I will try to compare the team to both our combined past, as well as the rest of the league at this point of the season.
So as of today we have played 19 matches we are sitting with a 8-6-5 record, a 1.53 points per match, if that continues we would end up with 52 points which should be enough to make the playoffs (last year it would have landed us in 4th place in the West). That total is now tied for the 4th best average in the league, with a slightly heavier road schedule than most other teams at this point of the season. One would have to judge that as half full, or is it? The teams above us are Philadelphia, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids, and if we look at the results map (visualization of results):
What concerns me is if we consider the last 10 matches for each of the teams:
Colorado – 4-0-6
FC Dallas – 6-2-2
LA Galaxy – 3-2-5
Phily – 4-3-3
RSL – 3-4-3
RSL has the fewest points over the last 10 with just 1.2 ppm, so overall RSL’s position has me thinking half full but recent performance has me worried it might be heading towards half empty.
RSL has scored 29 goals, only 3 teams who have played the same or fewer matches have scored more (Phi – 32, LA – 31, Mtl – 29), last year RSL finished with the second lowest total of goals scored. This would really be a glass full, if not for goals allowed. RSL has allowed 30 goals, only two teams who have played same or fewer matches have allowed more goals than us (Columbus & New England), last year 7 teams allowed more goals than RSL, so this has to be considered glass half empty. This one turns out to be a draw.
If you just look at numbers you can be fairly convinced that things are clearly better than last year for RSL, but that this year is still a bit up in the air overall. It is this year where I start to lean towards the glass half full, and it is for what I have seen from some of our younger players. As hard as it might be for some fans to swallow given some of the results when we have played largely younger lineups, it is those hard matches (especially on the road) that are giving guys valuable minutes that will pay off in the long term. So far RSL has had 20 players get minutes with the first team, 7 of those are players are 24 or under.
Leading the way in the youth movement are Justen Glad and Joao Plata, who both have 14 starts in RSL’s first 19 matches. Justen at just 19 is learning the ropes of being a MLS centerback by being tossed into the fire, he has made some mistakes but is learning as he goes and I am excited by the potential he has to be a long term top tier defender in MLS. Joao is a fireball and at 24 is becoming a more finished MLS player, one of the things I have noticed with him this year is that he is running with more control. In the past he tended to run with his arms flapping at his sides, but now he runs more like a sprinter with his arms pumping in a more effective manner.
At the start of the season it was believed RSL was going to have Jordan Allen shadow Javi and be our backup CAM, but that seems to have been scrapped with him playing more minutes as a forward coming off the bench. He has 750 minutes so far and has 3 goals and 1 assist, and I expect as he gets more minutes in that role up top that he will be even more productive. If there is a single player that makes me optimistic for RSL’s future it is Jordan.
There are others that make me optimistic, Omar Holness who despite his early season health concerns has gotten a lot of minutes in recent weeks, and while there have been struggles it is clear why the RSL staff is very high on this young man. On the backline youngsters Boyd Okwuonu and Phanuel Kavita both have shown promise since the preseason and getting a sprinkling of minutes so far in the season represent a good thing for me. A guy that we really haven’t seen in MLS action yet is Danilo Acosta who could be a very interesting addition to the RSL midfield, I think he was a bit in awe during the preseason but he sure looks to have the skill set to be a guy who could play a role in the future of RSL.
Of the next 5 matches (not counting the exhibition) RSL will play 4 are against Eastern Conference opponents, including two home and two road matches, there will be no time better to get that summer swoon over than in those matches, RSL is 24-15-19 vs those 4 teams in the past so it is something within their capabilities to pick up 8 or more points in those matches.
It is easy to all of us to simply see the glass and judge it quickly based on emotions of a bad match, but if we look at the bigger picture (both the season and the team) there is plenty that I see that makes me believe the glass is half full, but boy the guys could to a lot in the next few weeks to make everyone feel a bit more comfortable with things.
That’s How I See It