Well we saw a couple matches today where the team with all the statistical advantages and the better play found themselves on the losing end of a match. Real Salt Lake was one of those teams, with over 60% of the possession, a 13 to 6 shot differential, and even a 9 to 2 edge in corner kicks.
I will give credit where credit is due, Chivas came in with a game plan and executed it, it was a simple task of defending and trying to counter attack. What made the difference tonight, because that is what most teams do when they come to Rio Tinto, was the pressure on the ball that Chivas put all over the pitch. They slowed down the match when they could to conserve energy and take RSL out of their rhythm and it worked.
Now I will say this much, first I thought that Casey Townsend could be a real difference maker, he has nothing to lose and is a guy who is dangerous in the area. He got his one chance, and he made it count. His first MLS goal, his first game winning goal, and Chivas USA's first goal and first win of the season. I was also very impressed with the play of former RSL player Rauwshan McKenzie, who had a very good match and did well matched up against some of his former teammates, I thought his marking of Chris Schuler on set pieces was solid, and he broke up several attacking runs made by Fabian Espindola.
So what was the difference maker for RSL tonight, I think RSL head coach Jason Kreis hit it on the head, the team looked 1/2 step off all night. A couple bounces go the other way and RSL converts multiple chances, but tonight the ball simply didn't bounce RSL's way.
more thoughts after the jump:
Now comes the part all of you have been waiting for.Mark Kadlecik, tonight's referee, now many of you are going to want me to toss him under the bus, but I am not going to. I knew what to expect from him from last years matches, he is a wildly inconsistent official, he exceeded his average of fouls called and cards issued tonight, which I believe disrupted the match for both teams. Clearly that impact was felt more by RSL who were trying to build a rhythm to the match and play a more flowing style, while his calls played right into the hands of Chivas USA who were content with a much slower match.
I had to laugh when I made a comment in the press conference about the inconsistency and how it impacts the match negativity as players are left wondering what might get called and what might not, as well as how is disrupts the overall flow of the match. What made me laugh was a guy who just recently has started covering soccer trying to say that in a 1-0 match the official can't make a difference, the rolling eyes of others provided a quality moment of humor. Clearly if you watched the match or were playing in the match you understand that 27 stoppages for fouls makes a huge difference, it was nice to see that Mark finally figured out that Dan Kennedy (who had a stellar night in goal) was wasting huge amounts of time all night and gave him a yellow card late in the match.
There are two plays that I think were match changers and neither of them do I think the official got correct, first in the 11th minute of the match RSL has a free kick awarded and it appeared that neither RSL player over the ball asked for the official to mark off 10 yards, which means they can start the play when they want. They did and it resulted in a RSL goal, but the official who had put down the foam at the spot of the ball waved off the goal, saying RSL started too quickly. It really appears that he got this one wrong, and it clearly changes the match.
The second was an offense that should have drawn a straight red card, the shame is that it happened off the ball and wasn't caught by the TV camera but I caught a stadium camera replay in the media room it was a clear slap by Oswaldo Minda on a RSL player, the shame is I don't know if it will be reviewed or not by MLS, but it was the type of play that it is a shame it happens and the official misses, but needs to be punished by the league.
It is clear that the loss comes down to two simple things, RSL failed to convert their chances, some due to their mistakes and some due to incredible saves by Dan Kennedy, who was huge. Fabian Espindola made Kennedy work hard tonight, and Alvaro Saborio who came on for the second half had a couple of chances, one was a chip shot that found the crossbar and then a header that was just wide.
I remember years and years ago a friend telling me that heartbreaking thing about soccer is that sometimes the better team just doesn't win. That clearly was the case at Rio Tinto on Saturday night.
OFF MY SOAPBOX