For just the third time in the teams history RSL has let a coach go, and while many saw the writing on the wall this off season when former NYRB head coach Mike Petke was hired to coach the Monarchs, it became official last week. So on Saturday Petke’s RSL will take the pitch for the first time against Western Conference foes the Vancouver Whitecaps, and for RSL a win is much needed.
RSL is still fighting the injury bug as 7 potential starter are listed as either out or questionable, David Horst is out and Jordan Allen, Justen Glad, Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund and Sunny are all listed as questionable. So while the backline will be a hodgepodge again, the likely return of Chris Schuler is a welcomed one after what was a debacle last week at Minnesota. The Whitecaps haven’t gotten off to a great start either but their 1-2-1 record at least has a win, they did drop a midweek CCL match that could have put them in the finals so there could be some fatigue and mental letdown but RSL hasn’t shown the mental toughness to punish opponents who may be down yet.
Keys to the Match:
Mental Toughness – For the first time all year RSL got off to a great start against MN last week with a early 1-0 lead but then gave up 4 goals all on plays created by mistakes from RSL players. That lack of focus, lack of mental toughness is something we noticed creeping in last year and has to be one of the top priorities of Mike Petke. Yes I know the injury to Maund created some chaos for RSL but losing a player should never lead to the kind of meltdown we saw last week. This is the match were if you wear the Claret and Cobalt you need to step up not only to impress your new boss, but to deliver the kind of play that your fans not only desire but deserve.
Find the back of the net – A great early goal from Luke Mulholland was good, but for me the late and pointless goal from Yura Movsisyan might be the most important goal so far this season for RSL. It was late but still Yura was fighting, it was late and despite missing a couple of chances still Yura was trying and able to succeed. I expect a healthy Joao Plata will likely return to the starting lineup, will he be able to help boost the attack alongside Yura and the impressive youngster Brooks Lennon? You have to score to win and Caps have given up 7 goals in their first 4 matches, so RSL will clearly get their chances.
It’s Petke Time – Taking over a team you didn’t have a finger in building can’t be easy, taking over a team after years out of the league can’t be easy, but the reality is that RSL doesn’t need easy, we did that when Jason left. So now a guy who is saying all the right things, a guy who has the background, a guy who has delivered results in the past. I supported John until he failed for too long, I supported Jason until he left, I supported Jeff until he failed for too long, I am ready for another coach and one that I believe can deliver the results we want.
Players to Watch:
Kyle Beckerman – The long term captain of RSL hasn’t had a good start to the season, a nagging injury, a controversial red card, and still no wins. If you should know anything about Kyle it is that he hates to lose, he is a fighter and this has got to be getting under his skin. So the question is does he step up and lead or get frustrated like he did a couple weeks ago? Kyle has seen RSL at their worst and at their best and I believe that while he may be a year old that he is also a year wiser. Time for Captain Kyle to step up and lead this team into a new era of success.
Matias Laba – If you watched the Caps take on LA last weekend you saw how good Laba can be, but this team needs consistency from him and the pick up of Tony Tchani(one of my favorite MLS players) they gave him another player like their off season pickup of Fredy Montero (yeah that guy), they gave him the guys around him that will allow Matias to find that consistency. If you give him any room at all he has the potential to punish you quickly.
It is hard to believe that RSL won’t find a way to win this match, bad defeat, new coach, at home, fatigued opponent. Still this Vancouver team features a lot of guys who have found success against RSL in the past, Techera (4 goals), Shea (2 goals, 3 assists), Montero (2 goals, 2 assists), Tchani (2 goals). So a big match for RSL against a team they need to beat, a match they need to win. I have to go with a 2-1 RSL win as the Petke era starts.
That’s How I See It!