So I thought it was funny that on Monday night during #OnFrame the usually very optomisitc crew were a bit more timid in their opinions for the rest of the season. How so? Well a prediction of just 7 more points from the last 5 matches of the season is a bit of a downer, when I consider they should get at least that from their remaining home matches, starting with 3 points against Houston. If we don’t get 3 points from Saturday’s match with the Dynamo then we need to do some serious inward looking before we get to the playoffs.
Considering Houston is 1-9-4 on the road with 14 goals scored and 23 goals allowed, half of their road goals have come from 2 spectacular road losses a 4-3 loss at NYRB, and 2-3 loss at Portland and a 3-3 road draw last weekend at Sporting KC. The Dynamo are tied for the worst record in MLS with just 5 total wins, so while they are out of the playoffs but even with a new coach and guys fighting for their jobs they really aren’t a very good team but they already have a win against RSL. It was back in May that Houston got a 1-0 win over RSL in Houston, but a couple weeks prior to that RSL overcame giving up the first goal to them at Rio Tinto to come back and get a 2-1 win.
For RSL they are 4-3-3 in their last 10 matches, Houston is 1-3-6 over their last 10, so everything looks like it should favor RSL, but that has been the case often this year and then things haven’t gone as planned. A big question will be how bad was the injury last weekend to Javier Morales, with him unlikely to start (or maybe even be on the bench) who fills in? Jordan Allen or Luke Mulholland are the most likely choices, I for one thought that Allen did well last weekend in the first half at Portland but his style of play is different and it was clear that the adjustments were taking time, however a week of practice could make that much smoother this week.
I have said this so many times this season that I am starting to drive myself nuts with it, but RSL must find a way to start matches with more stability. We have given up the first goal in a match 16 times this season, and have allowed 41 goals in the first half of matches. If we head into the more defensive minded playoffs and allow this trend to continue we will be in real trouble. RSL needs to figure out how to score first, and then hold that lead for the rest of the match. We have won just 1/2 (6) of the matches in which we score the first goal, even lowly Houston have won 5 matches in which they scored first (and none when they give up the first goal). This is a match in which RSL should score first, score often and dominate like they did against Chicago, there should be no let up in intensity, just domination at home. Send a message to the rest of the Western Conference, that we have figured it out and there will be no mercy.
To do this we need to see brutal finishing, we need guys to take shots that are lower percentage of goals but that can create secondary chances, we need guys crashing the area to pressure the keeper. If we continue to get the ball at the midfield stripe and then pass it to death until we either give it away or end up with it going out of bounds, we let them bunker in and make it even harder for us to score goals. I love that our guys are always looking for each other, considering who might have a better angle but at some point we need to simply put the ball on frame so much that our opponents can’t prevent us from scoring. So I would love to see more shots from distance from Kyle, Burrito, and Luke, while Joao and Yura crash the box looking for those rebounds. If we lose the ball and get it back leverage our outside back to launch crosses back into the area and again create chaos inside the 18 yard box.
The best strength of RSL this year has simply been that they continue to fight, there is no quit in the team, at home or on the road, the final 30 minutes of the match our guys believe they are going to get a result and play accordingly. RSL has scored half of their 42 goals in the final 30 minutes (Houston have just 7 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches). So against Houston, getting a lead and then finishing them off should be easy enough but nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.
Houston doesn’t have a dominant forward, they have loaned out Cubo Torres who simply seemed disinterested in playing anymore. So while no player for the Dynamo has more than 5 goals, they do have 6 guys with multiple goals. Their leader is Andrew Wenger with 5 goals and 3 assists, Will Bruin, Alex and Ricardo Clark each have 4 goals. When Wade Barrett took over the struggles have continued as the lineups have changed and while it would be easy to focus on just two wins in 15 matches, the 9 draws show that this is a team that will fight with you and won’t quit. Given how RSL often struggles to put teams away this match is a bit scary for me, but this should be a rather easy 3-1 win, but the theme for the year is that rarely do things go the way they should.
That’s How I See It