Well if you wanted something a bit more exciting than the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics, you should have been watching Real Salt Lake pick up a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on a pair of Alvaro Saborio goals. While I wish I had been at Rio Tinto to watch it live, but this was the first match I missed without there being a medical or family emergency as I made the trip to the East coast to catch Liverpool play on Saturday. That meant I was left to watch the match via MLS Live but even with a smaller screen and occasional buffering, you couldn't miss the feeling that this was a special match as both teams played some great attacking soccer for the majority of the match. There were a total of 750 passes between the two teams, a total of 23 shots, 5 on goal, but I don't think that the numbers can come close to matching the intensity of the players who were working hard all night long.
So while RSL didn't get the clean sheet, it was clear that RSL's defense did a lot of hard work to keep a team that has so many offensive weapons from scoring too many goals. With Kenny Mansally matching up against Dane Richards for most of the match it was exciting to see what had to be a tactical dream match up of two guys with a lot of pace and willingness to make some great runs. I also think that Kwame Watson-Siriboe was rock solid as was Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran, we saw Vancouver try to play some balls over the top to the very quick Darren Mattocks who only once was able to make RSL pay for it. Chris Wingert came on late in the match for Mansally to provide some fresh legs and perhaps a bit more defensive stability to withstand the Whitecaps late attack. There isn't enough you can say about what Nick Rimando was able to do, and yes I give him credit for the goal posts as well, cause that is his goal.
more thoughts after the jump:
The battle of the midfield was great to see, I thought Luis Gil was really good and he was good in working with Javier to spark the offense and his early shot on goal was great. Of course Javier Morales was great and he is starting to show more and more confidence on and off the ball, his pass to Saborio on the 2nd goal was a thing of beauty. Will Johnson was solid all match but really stepped it up towards the end of the match when the team was looking to secure the win, he won some critical balls and provided that high level of energy that he is known for. Kyle Beckerman came back from the All Star match and was showing why he was there and in the mix at the end of that match, he simply gets to the ball on both sides of the action and when he is focused he is the best d-mid in the league, bar none. When Ned Grabavoy came on to replace Luis, he added a bit more defensive bite, and the same thing when Yordany Alvarez came on late in the match for Fabian Espindola.
Speaking of Fabi, wow talk about some great work, it is a damn shame that he hasn't been rewarded with some more goals, but you can see how smartly he is playing when you look at the run made at Cannon which resulted in him getting the red card. Fabi could have tried to chip him and go for the goal, but instead he played a perfect ball that forced Cannon to stop him and get the red card. Now remember that took one of the best keepers out of this match, but also since we are the next opponent for Vancouver that means he will be out on August, 11th. I am not sure if Fabi knew that but wow that was a huge play that will impact our next match against Vancouver as well.
Then there is Alvaro Saborio, so earlier this week I said that I thought Sabo was just getting started. He is healthier than he was last year and while he always seems to produce more in the second half of the season, I also think he has lifted his play to another level as the team gets closer to Champions League action. It could be a very nice boost to have him playing at the highest level that we know he is capable of.
So a very solid effort by RSL, and you have to like that it looked a bit better than they did against Colorado and they need to continue to improve as we head into some big matches in Champions League action. Well it is very late here in DC so I am going to call it a night, enjoy that victory RSL Nation.
OFF MY SOAPBOX