SANDY, UT - OCTOBER 29: Head coach of Real Salt Lake Jason Kreis (R) congratulates Javier Morales #11 during a game against the Seattle Sounders during the second half of an MLS play-off 1st leg soccer game October 29, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake won the game taking a 3-0 lead into the second game. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
So how many of us thought after the 3-1 thrashing of the New York Red Bulls that RSL was back to their old ways and that they would continue to roll through the rest of the regular season and challenge LA for the Supporters' Shield? Of course then there was the 4-1 defeat at DC United, a 3-0 defeat at expansion side Vancouver, I mean there was a 4 match stretch there where RSL averaged giving up 3 goals per match. So while all of us enjoyed the 3-0 win on Saturday, perhaps the biggest thing wasn't the fact that RSL scored 3 goals but the fact that they didn't give up any. If you included their final two matches of the regular season, RSL had given up just 1 goal in 270 minutes (that one goal came in stoppage time against Portland).
To me that stat that draws the most attention from Saturday night is 0 shots on goal by Seattle, oh they took shots, 12 of them, 5 were blocked and 7 were off target. The Sounders also won 7 corner kicks but RSL's strength on set pieces was steady, but with the potential of losing both of our tall center backs who are rock solid on defense and set pieces.
The latest news (as of 4:30pm Tuesday) is that Jamison Olave is very unlikely Wednesday or Sunday, Nat Borchers is still up in the air for either match, and Tony Beltran should be able to go tomorrow. While the prospect of getting Beltran back, is exciting news he does lack the size of both of our normal center backs, so I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think the RSL back line will be: Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler, and Chris Wingert. I just think that if Nat can walk that he will find a way to play, the worst case I think would be to move Robbie Russell into the central spot, and play Tony on the outside (despite missing the last 6 weeks of the season).
If you look at the numbers, Seattle can score lots of goals in matches, 8 times they have scored 3 or more goals, and RSL can give up goals, 5 times this year RSL has given up 3 or more goals. Those numbers scare me but there are also 18 times that Seattle scored one goal or were shut out, and RSL kept opponents to 1 or none 24 times this year.
I remain optimistic but the reality is that nobody should be counting their chickens before they hatch. I do expect that the match is going to be a very good one and I will be glued to my TV with my fingers crossed and hoping that we can continue to play the attractive style of soccer that we have shown the last couple of weeks, if we do my confidence will rise quickly.
OFF MY SOAPBOX