OK, I really try to look for the positives, I try to be an optimist but I think perhaps a very hard look at what I think was a good effort but one that wasn't good enough by RSL that lead to a 2-1 loss at the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
It isn't just me, RSL head coach Jason Kreis said this:
"We've got to keep working. We've got to keep paying attention to the details and do a little bit better in every aspect of our game."
He is right, we have to get better in a lot of places on the pitch. For me there was simply only two bright spots on the night, first and at the top of my list was the play of Kwame Watson-Siriboe, who simply was the best RSL player on the pitch all night. Now that doesn't mean he was perfect but he was mighty close to it on the night, in fact I thought his performance tonight was the best of any of the RSL centerbacks all season. The other bright spot was the play of Javier Morales/Luis Gil, while they also weren't close to perfect the combo (the result of a halftime sub due to Javi picking up an injury), they were solid and both created and worked very hard against a huge amount of pressure put on them by the opposing side.
A lot of guys didn't have bad nights, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, all worked about as hard as I think they could. A couple of guys worked hard but simply weren't able to do enough to make a difference in the match, Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola, Chris Wingert, Paulo Jr. and Kyle Beckerman. A few guys seemed to have some issues on the night, for most it simply was passes not sharp enough, positioning off a bit. It would be wrong to not acknowledge the reality that Vancouver is a good team, they played well and applied a lot of pressure on both sides of the ball, but if you want to consider RSL to be a top team in the league, well they you have to be able to respond on the road against good teams.
More thoughts after the jump:
So if you just look at the numbers RSL didn't have a bad night, they took more shots 12 to 11 over Vancouver, a 6 to 5 edge in shots on goal, a 55.1% to 44.9% edge in possession, a higher percentage of duels won, more passes, but in the end all of that was done for much of match with what looked like a lack of urgency when the score was 0-0, then a few minutes of real urgency after the Whitecaps got the first goal, and then after the second goal in the 64th minute it looked as if some of the wind was taken out of RSL's sails until the final 4-5 minutes of the match. I expected as the clock got to 75 that RSL down two goals would be much more aggressive but they weren't, when the clock got to 80 I was amazed to see a rather casual pace of passing, and what looked like both teams trying to slow things down. It made sense for Vancouver who was protecting the lead, but for RSL down two goals it just seemed odd that they had just 1 shot taken between the 2nd goal by Vancouver and the 85th minute. Now the team did get 3 shots including a goal in the final 5 minutes and stoppage time but I look at a twenty minute gap between the second goal by Vancouver and us taking a shot, that worries me.
Perhaps it is the fact that RSL has scored so many late goals that the team has a level of confidence in their ability to come back late in matches, I mean 11 of our goals now have been scored in the final 15 minutes or stoppage time of matches. Maybe the fact that 25 of our 36 goals scored have come in the second half of matches has lead to a lack of urgency in the first half, despite the fact that when scoring first RSL is 11-1-0 and when giving up the first goal they are 2-8-1. As good as our offense has been in the second half of matches, our defense has been suspect as 22 of our 30 goals allowed have come in the second half of matches, and 17 in the final 30 minutes of matches. None of it simply seems to make much sense and for sure things all over the pitch have to get better if RSL is going to want to do more than just limp into the playoffs.
I know that our guys have a ton of heart, but on the night it looked unfortunately that our sharpness or talent level simply wasn't on a par with the Whitecaps. One of those things can be worked on, the other could require some changes. Is it time that we give some of the guys who were able to help us get off to a good start this season, and some of the new guys who we have brought in get a chance to make shake off this current funk. Maybe it is time for Enzo Martinez to get a shot, maybe it is time for us to see some more of Sebastian Velasquez, I think a lot of fans would like to see more of Kenny Mansally, and Paulo Jr. sure looked like his old self on Saturday. With a national team call up for several RSL guys for midweek matches, perhaps on Saturday against Dallas we see some guys get a shot to see what they can do when given a chance.
OFF MY SOAPBOX