SEATTLE, WA - MAY 12: Fabian Espíndola #7 (R) of Real Salt Lake celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on May 12, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. Real Salt Lake defeated the Sounders 1-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Well it wasn't a pretty match for RSL, but they stood tall and worked hard on both sides of the ball and were able to capitalize on a great goal by Fabian Espindola in 51st minute. The battle of the two midfields was exactly what I expected as neither side completed even 75% of their passes on the night, the Sounders played better in the first half but RSL had a couple of chances. I was a bit shocked early that Ned Grabavoy wasn't able to get a shot off early in the match when he had the ball at the top of the 18 and time, but a bit of pause and Osvaldo Alanso was there to get into the play.
It was clear that RSL was the road team in this match and that the Sounders were the more aggressive side for the majority of the match, something I don't like to see in a RSL match, but when you have two very good passing and possessing teams something is going to give. With the passing lanes being clogged by a very assertive Sounders midfield and back line it left RSL with having to attack up the sides and via long balls. I was worried for a moment when Chris Wingert went down in the 21st minute of the match and called for a sub, it put RSL in a bad position of having to use a sub early but wow was Chris Schuler something or what? Listen I am going to tell you this now, someone at US Soccer really needs to think about spending some time looking at what he can do. On both sides of the ball tonight Schuler was simply very solid, even when playing out of his natural center back position.
more thoughts after the jump
So let's take a look at how RSL did position by position. We can start with Nick Rimando, and while the stat sheet will show that the Sounders didn't get a shot on goal tonight, Nick was still forced to deal with some dangerous balls and plays in his area and he did exactly what we expect from him, he dominated. Nick's night was easier than expected because of the entire team working hard on the defensive side of the ball. Tony Beltran found himself dealing with guys bigger than he was all night but he did well to hold his own and to ensure that not too many dangerous plays came from guys he was marking.
Jamison Olave was simply stellar, his size and speed once again proved to be game changing as he often was able to disrupt both Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson all night long. That left Nat Borchers to clean up any thing else and when called into action he was able to do just that, which is what is the norm for him. Chris Wingert had a good twenty minutes and I hope the hamstring injury isn't that bad and that we can get him back into action. He was spelled by Chris Schuler who showed me some footwork on and off the ball that I didn't expect from him, and he almost provided an assist as a great ball played forward to Saborio forced Sounders keeper Bryan Meredith into making a huge save to keep the match at 1-0.
In the midfield it was always going to be a battle, and that is exactly what was delivered. I thought that we might start to see a bit more offense from others in the midfield with Javier out for the match, but it just wasn't to be other than a great assist by Luis Gil on the only goal of the night. Luis played a good match by applying a ton of pressure on both the Sounders midfielders and defenders when they had the ball, that high pressure creates chances and forces turnovers. Will Johnson made a couple of efforts on goal but none of them was really dangerous, I did think his work on the defensive side of the ball was great as he was able to switch sides when needed to add some extra bite when and where it was needed. Ned Grabavoy had a solid match and created a couple of chances for himself, now we just need him to pull the trigger, something I would like all our midfielder to do more of. I think too often we are working so hard for the pretty goals that we forget that just playing quality balls into the area and forcing the opposition to make saves can create chances.
Then there was the battle, Kyle Beckerman vs Osvaldo Alonso, both brought out the best of each other and both forced the other into mistakes and turnover that they normally don't make, which is exactly what I expected. I thought Alonso was a bit better at winning balls in the midfield but Kyle was probably a bit better at supporting his defenders. I consider it a fair battle between the two best defensive midfielders in the league today.
Then there were the forwards, after a rest on Wednesday for Fabian Espindola he was back to doing what he does best, being a pest on both sides of the ball, working harder than anyone else on the pitch and a clever run onto a Gil pass and he was able to turn his defender and one time the ball into the back of the net. Yes that is what he does best, oh and this goal puts him at 30 for his career with RSL the top goal scorer in club history. Congrats Fabi.
Oh my Saborio, he came so close to making it 2-0, but it again wasn't about just scoring goals, with Saborio it is about applying pressure to the defense, forcing them to stay back and defend, it is about applying pressure in the midfield to the opposition looking to create turnovers and chances. It was a very solid effort again from Saborio.
The subs for RSL tonight didn't score a goal but they clearly made a huge difference, I already talked about Chris Schuler and what he was able to do in the match, so what about Jonny Steele? Tonight he wasn't brought on to be an offensive force but rather to provide some fresh legs and to give RSL a defensive boost to slow down and keep in check what was going to be a huge late push by the home side Sounders. I thought his support of Tony Beltran was great in keeping Alvaro Fernandez in check, or in check as much as you can keep a very good player in check. He was able to switch sides later and help out Chris Schuler as well. Yordany Alvarez came on very late in the match to provide a bit more defensive punch for the last few minutes of the match and that is exactly what he did.
A solid effort by RSL on the road where they now have 3 road wins and 5 results on the road in 7 matches, including road wins over the LA Galaxy, Portland, and now Seattle. RSL will get a bit of a break with just one match left before the June FIFA break, it will be FC Dallas coming to Rio Tinto on the 26th.
OFF MY SOAPBOX