RSL’s form has been improving over the last few weeks and peaking at the right time is what it is all about in MLS. With wins over FC Dallas, Colorado and Chicago at home last month we saw what we knew RSL was capable of, domination over weaker opponents, fighting hard against quality opponents and defeating rivals.
Wednesday night I believe RSL’s biggest match of the rest of the regular season will happen at Rio Tinto as they play host to the LA Galaxy. RSL and LA both have played 27 matches and both teams have 43 points from those matches, both would love to finish in the top 2 in the West and avoid a playoff first round match. LA won their first match in over a month this weekend with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew, to be fair it was a solid win but like RSL’s win over Chicago last month it was an expected win.
For RSL we may be getting LA at a time they are ripe for the picking with Van Damme, Gerrard on short term injuries and unlikely to play, Gyazi Zardes out for the season and Robbie Keane a question mark after he made his farewell from international duty with Ireland last week. Still as RSL has seen almost any lineup that Bruce Arena puts out is dangerous and with weapons still like Lletget, dos Santos, Boateng and Mike Magee, this is a team that can score a lot of goals and a defense that is only giving up 1 per match.
I know I am one of the few fans who consider LA our greatest rivals, given our history with them in the playoff and the fact that despite the occasional blowout the two teams almost always put on a great show when facing each other. LA holds a 1 match lead in regular season matches where they have 13 wins to RSL’s 12 with the two sides drawing against each other 7 times. At home RSL has been dominant with a 6-3-6 record and a 26 to 19 goal advantage. RSL will be looking to make amends for the early season 5-2 disaster back in April, a match in which RSL scored first but couldn’t close the door on their opponents. This year is a real anomaly with RSL having just 6 wins from the 12 matches in which they scored first, but also having 6 wins from the 14 matches in which they gave up the first goal. Which RSL will we see on Wednesday night?
The RSL offense scores most of its goals from the run of play, with 21 of our 39 goals scored that way and the Galaxy give up most of their goals (16 of 27) from open play. This could be a factor that RSL could take advantage of as the rhythm between our top 4 (Morales, Martinez, Plata & Movsisyan) has been looking more and more organized and lethal in recent weeks. RSL will need to get a big performance from whoever fills in for Kyle Beckerman who is off on national team duty, but we should be able take advantage of a likely use of Leonardo as a CB in place of the injured Van Damme. LA will also be adjusting to life without their midfield crusher Nigel De Jong who has left for Turkey, but they can replace him with longtime MLS veteran Jeff Larentowicz.
If history of the Western Conference proves anything, it is that if you want to contend for a MLS Cup you have to eventually deal with the LA Galaxy, only twice since 2009 have the Galaxy not played in the Western Conference final. The last time RSL made the playoffs it was a 0-5 defeat at LA that ended their run, and was one of the most lopsided matches in RSL history. If the playoffs started today RSL would host the winner of LA vs Colorado, and keeping in front of both those teams in the table has to be top of mind on Wednesday for RSL players and coaches.
The Galaxy and RSL have always matched up well from a tactics point of view, LA tends to not care how the other team plays, they don’t care about possession, or if they give up a lot of shots. They tend to play behind the ball, defend well and counter quickly to take advantage of teams that over reach or get out of shape, something RSL does do. So how will the matchup go? I expect at home RSL is going to bring a lot of high pressure, and while that will expose the backline and Nick Rimando from time to time, this is a match RSL should win.
I am going with a 2-1 RSL win at home and the securing of the 2nd spot in the Western Conference for another week.
That’s How I See It