I don't mind RSL losing when they are out played, I hate it when they lose due to stupid mistakes. The reality is that two major mistakes were made, the first was a horrible decision by Fabi to make a bad two footed studs up challenge for a ball in the midfield, it was without a doubt a red card offense. The second mistake was the worst of the questionable calls on the night where Jamison Olave was shown a straight red card for what wasn't a foul but him being taken down by Steven Lenhart who damn near pulled his shorts off. Now Elias Bazakos was clearly out of position behind the play, but he still found some reason to send off Olave.
I wish that RSL would challenge the red card, even though I doubt the MLS review process would do anything. Not because there isn't clear video evidence that Lenhart actually committed the foul, but because they would hide behind their carefully chosen "obvious" standard. They will say there was contact by Olave, and they are right, but it wasn't part of the actual foul which directly was Lenhart going down as he was pulling Olave's shorts to create contact between the two. You will notice that MLS's highlights are all from the San Jose feed of the match, which only shows the play from behind and a bad side angle. I really hope ABC4 puts their camera feed from in front of the play online so fans can see the BS nature of the call.
So aside from those two mistakes, there were moments when the match was 11 vs 11 that saw both sides do well, but to be honest I thought for most of the first half when down a man that RSL was actually the better side, and simply poor man marking in the area lead to the goal in stoppage time of the first half. Let me be clear, when the ball is coming into the area you don't allow an opposing player to simply run in front of you to the ball, which is what happened on that play. Nat Borchers was caught watching the ball and left flat footed as Khari Stephenson ran in front of him and headed it past Nick Rimando. It was enough to give San Jose the 1-0 lead in stoppage time of the first half.
more thoughts after the jump:
I thought RSL battled back well at the start of the second half and a great effort by Kyle Beckerman who should have a goal of the week candidate for his 53rd minute goal, RSL continued to absorb the pressure until Steven Lenhart came on in the 61st minute and within a few more minutes controversy again surrounds a bad call made in favor of Lenhart. From that 69th minute red to Olave, the 9 man RSL side was simply trying to hold on for dear life, and a great header by Simon Dawkins in the 92nd minute (how the hell did they get 6 minutes of stoppage time?) was the game winner. A minute later Chris Wondolowski took advantage of RSL pushing forward and found the back of the net to set the final score at 3-1.
So let's look at how I think RSL did tonight, I am going to start up top with the forwards. All year Fabi has been playing lights out soccer, in control of his emotions, and for the most part making great decisions on the pitch, tonight he made a bad decision for whatever reason and got the red card. It was deserved, it was a silly foul in an area of the pitch that made it pointless even if he won the ball, simply a horrible play that cost his team to have to play a man down for 60 minutes. Then there is Alvaro Saborio, for the first 30 minutes I thought we were seeing just a very minor improvement over his dismal performance in KC last weekend, but down a man he stepped up on both sides of the ball. He made the San Jose defenders work hard and kept them from being able to come forward in mass, by fighting for every ball that he could get close to. I hope that we see that effort from him the rest of the year and not just when we are down a man. Paulo Jr. made a late appearance, and had one mini run but down two men it was clear that his impact was minimal but he will clearly be getting a start in Dallas on Wednesday.
In the midfield I thought the work rate was good, despite being down a man and then two, RSL still completed almost 80% of their passes in large part due to the work of the midfielders. There were some communication issues that resulted in broken plays but with two changes from last weekend, it was almost expected. I thought Kyle was what he is, one of the best central midfielders in MLS and his goal was artwork. I was a bit worried about Javier Morales coming back too soon from his hamstring issue a couple weeks ago, but he seemed to be close to 100% and played well when he had the ball, and got back to help defend as needed. Will Johnson made some great plays on both sides of the ball tonight and his work rate was as always mind blowing, I do think he still has a bit of match rust from the late start he got to the season but each match it seems to be less and less. Jonny Steele got the start tonight and I think he made an impact, especially on the defensive side of the ball, a good deal of work for him tonight and I can see why the RSL staff wanted him a couple years ago and followed up to get him this year. Luis Gil came on for Steele in the 60th minute, I think had the match stayed 10 vs. 11 it would have been a great move as Luis adds some offense and much needed fresh legs that would have forced the Quakes defense to deal with his pace and his attacking potential, but after RSL went down another man, I think he was doing his best to hold on in what had to be a daunting situation.
Our defenders were good, a mistake on marking gave up the first goal, but overall to withstand the 30 minutes being a man down, then another 20 down two men only to crack in stoppage time, was valiant. I thought Tony Beltran had his hands full all night dealing with Simon Dawkins and Justin Morrow, but his work rate on both sides of the ball was excellent, a tough night for all our defenders. I think Chris Wingert had a tough assignment of dealing with Chris Wondolowski while still trying to stay in position, a challenge that he did well in as it wasn't until late in stoppage that Wondolowski was able to make a real impact in the match. Jamison Olave got victimized by a bad call, but other than that he had a very solid match as expected. Nat Borchers had a couple of rough spots tonight, but overall the effort was solid as we see each and every match. Chris Schuler came on late, and I thought did a great job of clearing some balls out of the area, clearly all of our defenders were under great stress being down two men.
Nick Rimando will be saddled with the loss in this match but to be honest his work was excellent and he made so many huge saves that RSL is fortunate that it didn't get very ugly tonight, 5 saves and each of them was a potential save of the week. Another huge match for Nick it is just a shame that he had to face 20 shots with 8 of them being on goal.
A tough loss, but one in which a couple of bad decisions were the game changing factors, it wasn't as if RSL were outplayed man on man in the match, far from it. Still a loss, the team will need to put that quickly behind them, do their regeneration work and then be off to Dallas for a Wednesday match. Every match in Texas is a challenge.
OFF MY SOAPBOX