Saturday was a cold, wet mess but Real Salt Lake found a way to get a very important home win. The first half was more than a bit disjointed but in the second half we began to see more of what we expect from this RSL team, solid play, smart passing and teamwork. The game winning goal was a perfect example of that as a midfield turnover went from the feet of Damir Kreilach (international newcomer) to Corey Baird (new homegrown player) to Jefferson Savarino (Designated Player) who converted the goal. With a short rest and travel to the East coast, the next challenge will be Wednesday’s match in the big apple against NYCFC.
There are only two teams left in MLS that haven’t tasted defeat yet, FC Dallas (1-0-3) who have been far from impressive and NYCFC (4-0-1) who sit at the top of the Eastern Conference. I have to be honest I have watched about a total of 30-40 minutes of NY2 action this season, so I don’t have a lot to offer on what to expect from them but this, they are averaging two goals scored per match, while giving up less than one. At plus six in goal differential only Atlanta FC has a better number than they do in that category.
With a early 5pm MT start time I expect many folks will be rushing home or to find a TV to catch what should be an exciting midweek match. RSL has only played at Yankee Stadium(are they really still playing there?) once since NYCFC joined the league, it was a 3-2 RSL win. In fact RSL has never lost to NYCFC, never drawn with NYCFC, we are 3-0-0 since they joined the league, can we make it four?
Key to the Match:
The Walking Wounded – Both sides have seen injuries impact their start to the season, for NYCFC when you lose David Villa you lose your identity and you have to adjust to playing without him. They have done that with solid performances from 2nd year DP Maxi Moralez who has three goals and one assist in five matches and newcomer Ismael Tajouri-Shradi who also has three goals and one assist in five matches. For RSL just as you get a couple guys back you lose a couple of others as both Marcelo Silva and Demar Phillips went down with injuries on Saturday. The upside was that we got to see Adam Henley make his RSL debut and it was a very good debut and David Horst stepped in and looked rock solid. It is hard to guess who will be able to go for each side on Wednesday but expect that Villa will be in the 18 if not the starting 11. Not knowing who you will be facing makes it tough on coaches to prepare, but focusing on what you do well will need to be the top priority for each team.
Players to Watch:
Sean Johnson – When the Fire traded Johnson to Atlanta, it raised some eyebrows around MLS, then Atlanta traded him to New York City FC on the same day and thing made more sense and for NYCFC they seemed to have found their keeper. He started 32 of 34 matches for them last year and got the result in 24 of them with 15 wins, in those matches he was just four saves away from 100. If the number of shots he has had to save so far this season are any example of how the year will go he will break that 100 number with ease. He has had to make 21 saves in the first five matches of the season, he has only given up four goals and has made some great saves early on in the season. I expect RSL will get their chances but beating Johnson is a whole different matter.
Damir Kreilach – Since joining RSL he has been a polarizing player for the fan base, some see him filling lanes and being disruptive, others are wondering what the others are watching. Still if you look at the Opta data from the last two matches you see a lot more green than red when it comes to passes, tackles and dribbles. IF there is a worry for me it is that he still seems a bit out of sync with the rest of the team and to be honest that is almost expected for a new player who came into camp late and was thrust into the starting lineup from day one. In the second half of Saturday night’s match he looked to finally be on the same page as everyone else, if we get more play from him like that half, then he may just win a whole lot of fans over.
Road matches are tough, NYCFC is one of the better teams in MLS, they get better with David Villa back available, it is a short turn for RSL with a cross country trip, its a long 10 day rest for New York. Yankee Stadium is not a good soccer venue, for either team but especially for visiting teams. The offense of the boys in baby blue has been impressive with or without David Villa this season and with a very short bench on the defensive side it will be perhaps the biggest test we have faced to prevent a lopsided result on the road. On the plus side for RSL will be set pieces NYCFC uses a zonal marking defense on corners and most set pieces, of their four goals allowed this season three have come from corners or crosses and this could be something RSL could take advantage of. NYCFC saves it for late, seven of their ten goals this season have come in the second half and for RSL half of the ten goals we have allowed have come in the final 15 minutes of matches. A fast start would be great for RSL but this will be a hold on to your seat until the final whistle blows. I can see this one being a 2-2 draw.
That’s How I See It!!