Well if you watched the first 15 minutes of the match in Costa Rica you probably were surprised by a couple of things, first was that RSL started off very slowly against what was a strong start by the home team that applied a lot of pressure and by the fact that so few fans actually showed up to the match.
It hasn't been unusual for RSL to go down a goal early in CCL matches, in fact they had done so in 5 of their 6 group stage matches, but were able to still end up with a 4-1-1 record and win their group. I know that a number of people seemed very upset at the officiating, and while there were for sure some questionable non-calls and non-cards on the night, home favoritism is probably seen a lot more in CONCACAF than in MLS for sure.
In the end the match came down to what has been a fairly common thread in RSL loses, mistakes and missed opportunities. A slip by Kyle Beckerman left his man, Elias Aguilar, with an open lane and he fired a quality shot that beat an outstretched Nick Rimando for the only goal that would be scored on the night. If you look at a couple other plays that resulted in bad things for RSL, you have the early yellow card given to Alvaro Saborio for pulling a player down by his jersey in the midfield, a play that served no real purpose for RSL. then the sliding tackle by Nat Borchers that earned him a red card (probably undeserved), but it was Nat trying to regain possession of the ball after a rough first touch had the ball bounce away from him, but again in the middle of the pitch it was a challenge that wasn't needed and given the two previous yellows RSL had earned, one that probably shouldn't have been taken.
more thoughts after the jump:
RSL had a couple of great chances but of their 14 shots taken on the night only two were on target, that number is way too low. Despite being down a man RSL still had 130+ more passes than Herediano, had a 58.7% to 41.3% advantage in possession. Perhaps the best example of a missed chance was the great run by Fabian Espindola in the 30th minute that got him behind the defense and while he was able to put a shot past the keeper it rolled just wide of the far post and out for a goal kick. It was probably the best of the RSL chances on the night. I thought RSL adjust well later in first half and became the better team and that carried over into the early minutes of the second half and even the first few minutes after going down a man, but in the end it was fairly solid defense by the home side and some lackluster efforts on goal by RSL that allowed the single goal of the match to lead to the final score of 1-0.
So if we look at performances by position I think we see that Nick played a very solid match and made a couple of very big saves to keep the team in the match. Which is exactly what we expect and get from him in almost every match.
Then there is the defense, who were good but not great, I think they were a bit taken back by the aggressiveness of Herediano at the start of the match, and while it wouldn't be until ate in the match that Jamison Olave would come off injured, it looked as if he may have been hurting the entire match as he made a couple very uncharacteristic mistakes and miscues in the match. I thought up to the red card that Nat Borchers had been very good, and was moving up nicely to hold a high line in support of the RSL attack. Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert had what I would call great matches as both did well to defend against the wide attack by limiting their chances to create dangerous scoring chances, while doing a good amount of work getting forward in support of our attack. Both provided width and options for our midfielders to have options when the defense collapsed around them. Our two defensive subs were also very good, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally both came in and both I thought were solid on defense and very good in helping a 10 man RSL still be dangerous on offense.
In the midfield is probably where I have my biggest issues with RSL's performance and perhaps it was how active Javier Morales was that made both Will Johnson and Ned Grabavoy look a bit out of sorts on the night, but it just looked as if both of them were a bit slower than the action for large parts of the match. Kyle Beckerman I thought was very solid, and knowing that he played the second half with a yellow card makes some of his work on the defensive side of the ball even more impressive. Still I thought that we didn't have the bite on either side of the ball in the midfield that usually we can count on, and I think that the play of Wingert and Betlran probably limited the quality touches in the midfield. Jonny Steele came on late in the match to try and provide some CCL magic, and he made a couple of good runs but it was simply too little too late.
Up top it was a homecoming for Alvaro Saborio, and you could tell he was considered by Herediano to be the most important player on the pitch as they didn't give him a chance to see his own shadow without seeing at least one or two others at the same time, they marked him closely and while he still had a couple of chances he wasn't able to do much with them. Fabian Espindola was exactly what I expect from him, he was hard working, hard charging, creative and a dynamo of effort on the pitch. He made the hard runs, he did everything he could to create chances but in the end was unable to convert and when he was subbed out late in the match you could see the look of disappointment on his face.
It is hard to win in Central America, it is even harder when you are battling both a team and official as RSL had to do, but in the end they simply weren't good enough to get the result and have now dug themselves a hole in group play.
OFF MY SOAPBOX