Well with just 4 matches to go it is likely RSL will make the playoffs, but over the last 5 matches there have been a lot more questions than answers. 2-1-2 in those last 5 matches with a home loss to Houston last weekend and RSL has simply looked anemic on offense and that leaves any simple mistake on defense as a point costing one. The injury report for RSL has both Yura and Joao listed as questionable, but we may see the return of Javier Morales, so the task of beating league leaders FC Dallas gets even more difficult.
While the loss to Houston was the first home loss of the season, RSL’s 8 home wins is tied for the lowest number of home wins of any Western Conference team that is above the red line at this point of the season, tied with LA. FC Dallas has a conference leading 5 road wins to go with their 10-1-4 home record and are the only team heading into Saturday to have secured a playoff spot already. So can RSL derail their goal to win the supporters’ shield?
To win this one, RSL will need to score first, FCD is 12-0-2 when they score first and just 3-8-4 when they allow the first goal. The FCD defense isn’t much better than RSL’s, they have 39 goals allowed vs RSL’s 42, and even their offense isn’t a lot better with 47 goals scored to RSL’s 42. When Dallas is good, they are really good, in 17 of their matches they have scored 2 or more goals, which when combined with 9 clean sheets explains why their record is so good. RSL has scored 2 or more goals 15 times, but with just 4 clean sheet it has been hard to get wins instead of draws. That goes a long way to explain why FCD has 3 more wins and 2 fewer loses than RSL. What will the keys be on Saturday?
There really aren’t a lot of weaknesses in the FC Dallas lineup or roster, but if you catch them on a off night you can punish them, they have two 0-5 losses this year, at Houston and at Seattle and a 0-4 loss at New York Red Bulls. Think about that for a second, 14 of their goals allowed, almost half of them came in 3 matches on the road and they account for exactly one half of their overall road goals allowed.
So can a modified lineup due to injuries find a way to break down the defense of FC Dallas? If we get both Jordan Allen and Olmes Garcia up top with Burrito, it could provide a real mix of on ball skills, passing and speed that could catch the Dallas defense napping. The big question will be who can be the creative string puller in the midfield? Is Luke up to the task? He looked a bit overwhelmed against Houston last weekend, but more time in the role in practice could help out. Without a real target guy, the crossing of Demar Phillips could need to change to lower passes simply trying to get the ball into the area when it can get lost in the muck of feet and bodies.
Can our defense find a way to deal with Mauro Diaz? His 11 assists lead FC Dallas who have proven that even without Castillo they are a dangerous team. They have 9 players with multiple goals, led by Michael Barrios with 9 and Maxi Urruti with 8. RSL has 7 players with multiple goals this season, led by Joao and Yura, Plata also leads RSL with 11 assists, so with both listed as questionable, can RSL score after being shut out in back to back matches? RSL has been held without a goal in multiple consecutive matches 3 times this year, a 3 match streak back in May and a 2 match streak in mid July.
I actually have liked the chemistry from Jordan and Olmes in the past, as guys who often play together in practice they have seemed to have a great understanding of how each other plays. That could provide just enough of a spark to get RSL’s offense going and with FC Dallas already having won the US Open Cup, already clinching a playoff spot and a Champions League match coming up on Wednesday, this might be a match where they may not be completely focused. Toss in some chilly weather and a RSL team that wants to perform for their home fans and a upset might just be in the making.
So while RSL may be the best comeback team in MLS this year, this one is clearly one where they need to get that first goal, and probably a second to get an advantage and hold on for a very important home win. RSL’s playoff destiny is in their own hands but losing matches at home allows others to gain more control over the playoff picture and you never want that to happen. This is the time of year where you need to get on a roll that can carry you into the playoffs, can RSL find a way to get on a positive role? I think they can but it won’t be easy, I am going with them holding on late to get a 2-1 win over FC Dallas.
That’s How I See It