It seems like just yesterday that the RSL season was kicking off and fans were unsure of what to expect after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and with just 10 matches left in the season I expect many fans are still finding themselves wondering what to expect.
RSL sits currently in 3rd place in the Western Conference with a 10-7-7 record and 37 points or 1.54 points per match (a good improvement over the 1.21 ppm from last year). A 1.54 ppm would have put RSL in 4th place in the West last year, shield winners New York Red Bulls ended the season with a 1.76 and won a tie breaker with FC Dallas to claim the shield. Currently MLS is lead by the Colorado Rapids with a 1.86 points per match, RSL’s 1.54 is tied for 5th in MLS at this point.
This weekend RSL will travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders who’s fans are probably feeling like RSL’s fans did last year, when things looked real bleak by August. The Sounders are 7-12-3 with a 1.24 ppm and 8 points out of the last playoff spot in the West, but things in MLS can change quickly. Both teams are coming off wins (RSL 3-1 over CHI & SEA 3-1 over ORL) and both have two wins in their last 5 matches. Both teams needing wins to close the gap with teams they are chasing, for RSL it is LA, Colorado and FC Dallas the 3 teams in front of them in the West and their next 3 opponents (all at home). For Seattle it is Vancouver, San Jose and Portland the 3 teams between them and a playoff sport, 4 of their next 5 matches are against those teams. Both teams are 8 points behind that key team (FCD in 1st & PDX in the final playoff spot), so it would be easy to label it a must win for both, but Seattle is clearly the more desperate team.
If Seattle are going to make it to a playoff spot it will likely be that they finally filled their vacant DP spot with Nicolas Lodeiro, the 27 year old playmaker has racked up two assists in his first two matches with the Sounders but has played a much larger role in making their offense click in both of those matches. He brings a wealth of international experience with both clubs and country, playing for Uruguay in both the last World Cups, and is already impressing his most famous teammate.
“Lodeiro,” Dempsey said. “Just having more quality in the attacking third. It just opens things up for us. He can find the third-man runners and people have to mark him, which leaves someone else open. I feel like that’s been a difference-maker for us.”
If you watched any of the last two matches the Sounders have played you have seen the difference, RSL’s midfield and defenders will need to not only keep very close attention to Lodeiro himself but the runs from guys like Dempsey and Jordan Morris. This is a guy who honestly just makes everyone around him better and more dangerous, that space he creates will also be something RSL has to pay close attention to.
On the other side of the ball, the big question is was RSL’s big 3-1 win over Chicago (their most dominant match of the season) a fluke caused by playing a very poor Fire team that is the worst in MLS and was distracted by their US Open Cup match which they lost midweek? The one thing that we have learned so far this season about this particular RSL team is that the fight is back, this team doesn’t give up. No other team in MLS can match their 5 wins after giving up the opening goal to an opponent (heck Seattle is 1-10-2 vs RSL’s 5-5-2 record), but the flip side of that is RSL is only 5-2-4 when scoring first.
If this match is close going into the final 30 minutes, things favor RSL who have scored 17 goals in the last 30 minutes of their matches vs Seattle who have just 11 goals in the closing half hour of matches. Seattle has given up 11 goals in the final 30, while RSL has given up 12, so you can almost bet on this match being settled in that last half hour of matches.
Only NYCFC have won more matches on the road this year than RSL, NY with 6 wins and RSL with 4 wins, but being fair both have played more road matches than any other road team. RSL will be looking to make it 5 road wins as they look for just their 3rd road win vs Seattle, this may be the time with the Sounders sitting at just 5-5-1 at home this year. RSL could also get a boost with the return of Yura Movsisyan to the starting lineup, the last match he played in Seattle was dramatic but a win in MLS Cup 2009 could provide some motivation for the striker who has looked good but who is very hungry for more goals.
The attention for this national TV match will be all about Seattle, their struggle to make the playoffs, Sigi being gone, Lodeiro coming in, and that is all OK with me as the match on the field should be one of the better ones of the season. Two team wanting a win in a very bad way, some of the most dynamic offenses in MLS, both sides with some questions on the defensive side, what will be a very loud crowd for a match played on very bad turf. Yeah this one has national TV written all over it. I am going with a safe prediction on this one, a 2-2 come from behind draw for RSL.
That’s How I See It