So for the first time in Rio Tinto history, RSL opened the MLS season at home and while that first match rust was clearly evident there were also signs of potential. The highlight was the PK save by Nick Rimando against Giovinco, but other than that the 0-0 draw played out a lot like one would expect a 0-0 draw, not a whole lot of excitement.
The question is heading on the road for week two can RSL find a way to create more chances and score goals? It has been since August of last year that RSL won a MLS match, so getting things back into the positive column would be good. If this were a match against the Fire of the last few years one could feel really good even when playing on the road but the reality is that Chicago may be the most improved team in MLS. The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho immediately make them better, add in DP forward Nemanja Nikolic and an ever improving David Accam and all of a sudden you have a team that is a lot more dangerous than in the past.
The last time RSL lost to Chicago was back in 2011, and overall these two have beaten the other 6 times with 7 draws, so this is a fairly balanced competition, 2017 should be seasons that both teams look to improve their overall performance.
Keys to the Match:
With RSL the issue will be consistency across 90 minutes, late last year and even on opening day they came out and looked very flat for the first 10-15 minutes if not longer and the reality is you can’t do that against Chicago, as TFC who’s starters gave up 3 early goals to Chicago in the final match of their respective preseasons. So my first key is to simply start solid, this will be the home opener for the Fire who have excited fans when they are a bad team and this year are very excited about their team. Getting past the first 15 minutes without giving up too many chances will be critical, the weather will be iffy so playing in control will be important.
Who will be at CB, so Justen Glad is back from being a shining star at the U-20s but has a dinged up knee, Maund has a hamstring issue that could keep him out, Schuler has picked up a bit of a ding and will be out, so now our depth looks a bit shallow. I expect if Demar can go that they may move Wingert to play next to Horst, but one has to wonder what else we might see as far as creative lineups?
Get a goal, the keys to winning is scoring, draws are nice but the point is to win. It is all about scoring, in 8 of their last 10 matches last year the Fire scored at least a goal, now granted they only won 2 of those matches but that was the same number as RSL won in their last 10. RSL didn’t score a goal in 3 of their last 5 matches last year and were shut out by TFC last weekend, so if it is Yura, Jordan, or whoever RSL just needs to score a goal or 3.
Guys to Watch:
CHI – Michael de Leeuw, a mid season pickup for the Fire last year, he found the back of the net 7 times and added 3 assists in the Fire’s final 17 matches last year. Michael is also a former teammate of RSL’s Albert Rusnak, they played together at FC Groningen and have talked about MLS and adjustments here. de Leeuw also has defender Johan Kappelhof on his side as a former FC Groningen player, so a trio of imports could see action on Saturday morning.
RSL – Albert Rusnak, there is a ton of pressure on this young man to deliver, signing a young DP contract and filling the shoes of RSL legend Javier Morales. RSL fans got a glimpse of what he can bring to the pitch when he RSL lead MLS in chances created per passes and lead MLS in chances created himself. Will week 2 be when he makes an impact on the stat sheet? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Projected RSL Lineup:
Beltran, Wingert, Horst, Phillips
Sunny, Kyle, Rusnak
Allen, Movsisyan, Plata
Beating the Fire will not be easy this is a much improved side who will be motivated for their home opener, but if RSL can weather the first 20 minutes I think they can pull off an upset or at least get a result. This will not be easy the Fire are fast and can counter quickly, so with a backline in flux and a couple guys maybe less than 100 percent it could get testy on the pitch. Still we saw glimpses that RSL has their own breakout ability and can create some quality chances but the name of the game will be finishing, with an unproven(at least in MLS) keeper in net the RSL forwards will need to test Jorge Bava early and often. I am going with a 2-1 RSL win, RSL goals coming from Yura and Rusnak opening his MLS account.
That’s How I See It!