Real Salt Lake's Paulo Jr. takes a first half PK shot and scores the only goal in RSL's 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. (photo by me)
That was perhaps one of the ugliest wins I have ever seen RSL escape with, now for those of you who watched the last 20 minutes and wondered what was going on you need to know two things. First, it appears that Ned Grabavoy either cracked or broke a rib in about the 65th-70th minute and was struggling to keep playing. Second, Javier Morales pulled his hamstring and was hobbled for about 15 mintues, eventually leaving the field before the match was over which left RSL with 10 men on the pitch, including the injured Grabavoy. That being said it still wasn't a very good match for RSL, and a big part of that was the energy and aggressiveness that Montreal played with.
RSL struggled in the first half to deal with the extra midfielder that the Impact were playing with, and credit to the expansion side for not sitting back and just defending. They pressured the ball well all over the pitch, and made some dangerous runs, RSL is fortunate that only 2 of their 14 shots was on goal. I thought that Justin Mapp was very good, and Justin Braun, who didn't take a shot all night put himself in some dangerous positions. I also thought that former RSL midfielder and now Montreal Impact midfielder Collen Warner did very well on the night, it was his first start for his new team. I thought Montreal came in with a game plan to pressure the ball in the midfield, to clog up the passing lanes and try to force RSL into things they were uncomfortable doing. I think it worked fairly well.
For RSL the effort and energy as a team wasn't where I think players, coaches or fans expected it to be. Now a couple of things could factor into what happened, 3 players making their first start for RSL as Will Johnson, Jonny Steele and Terukazu Tanaka all got their first starts of the 2012 season, and Steele and Tanaka got their first ever MLS starts. It was clear that the communications and passing suffered a bit with the new players as well as some lineup changes from Saturday, still I think everyone expects better.
more thoughts after the jump:
So here are the guys who I thought did a really solid job tonight, I thought Nick Rimando was simply Nick Rimando, as I said he is one of the very best in the game today and he proves it almost every match. He picked up his 89th career shutout tonight as well as his 125th career MLS win, another milestone win for Nick.
I thought that Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, and Tony Beltran were all good tonight, they did what it is that we expect of them, they blocked shots, and helped keep the Impact from making Nick work too hard. There were some scary minutes late in the match for sure. Terukazu Tanaka, I love him going forward to support the attack (one of the things that made him stand out in the preseason) but I do think there is some work to be done on the defensive responsibility side of thing, still he showed us why RSL GM Garth Lagerwey was excited to bring him to be part of the team.
In the midfield, I thought everyone was OK, but it was clear that the extra man that Montreal played in their midfield caused issues for everyone all night. It is a tactic we know we will see again so there is work to be done on finding spaces and clear passing lanes. The numbers aren't awful as RSL still had 51.8% of the possession and completed 79% of their 426 passes but all those numbers are down from what they did on the road against Portland. We know that it is unlikely that either Ned or Javi will be able to go on Saturday, so I expect that we might see a very interesting lineup in the RSL midfield against the Rapids. You know that it is a match that RSL has no problem getting up for, and I expect with the new style the Rapids play that the midfield battle will be the key to the match on Saturday.
Up top, Paulo Jr. was finally rewarded for all his hard work as nobody was going to take that PK attempt but him and he put it firmly in the back of the net. He was all over the pitch and doing everything we have come to expect from him this year as he took 4 shots and put 3 on goal, he worked well on both sides of the ball all night long. Fabian Espindola had a solid night, but it looked like he was a little bit off and maybe a bit frustrated that the midfield was unable to take advantage of some the very good runs he made. When Alvaro Saborio came on in the match, I thought he did well with the ball at his feet but clearly with the injuries he was prompted into action more on the defensive end of things, and for something he doesn't like to do, I thought he did it fairly well.
A ugly win, and a lucky win. Still to end up with the 3 points has got to feel good for RSL as they know they are capable of so much more.
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