Here we sit, nearly half way through the 2013 MLS season. Am I the only one that feels that it is flying by? I was thinking yesterday after the 3-2 extra time win over the Atlanta Silverbacks in US Open Cup play about where I thought we would be at this point in the season after last season. I have to say, expectations are an interesting thing.
Let's take a second and remember how last season ended.
Okay, that was painful. The point is that the season did not end the way that we, as fans and players, wanted it to. The expectations for last season were set very high. We'd come off a year full of disappointment after losing the CCL final and coming up short in MLS Cup playoffs. 2012 was going to be the year! Everyone was back and healthy. We were keeping "the core" together for one more year to make a real run at all competitions.
Well, 2012 ended and the only silverware we held onto was the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Thus began the great exodus.
2013 was going to be a re-hash. We all knew that changes were going to be made, and let's just be honest, they needed to be made. As much as we all love every player (well, some of us have issues with some players, and I understand that, just let me have this point.) that walks out of the tunnel at the RioT wearing the claret and cobalt, sometimes players aren't the right fit, or just aren't right for the future of the club. That being said, I was shocked when the news of the first trades came out. It was what many of us thought signaled the beginning of what would be a long and arduous off season, and a lengthy and testing season. In the podcast that tends to come out from the @slcwreckingcrew from time to time, I remember mentioning that this year would be a rough one and that RSL fans needed to buckle in and hang on for the ride.
So, again, here we sit. Nearly half way through the 2013 MLS season and I want to ask you, RSL fan, how do you like where we sit?
Let's point out a few things.
1. We are young.
It's crazy to me how many extremely young and talented players there are on the RSL roster right now. Not that it's really anything new for RSL but this year there has been an influx of truly talented youth. Not only are they talented but they are actually contributing. There have been many young players throughout the years come through the doors of RSL touted as "the future" that have fallen flat. This year the youth is being asked to step up and make a difference. In many cases they have done just that. Carlos Salcedo, Devon Sandoval, Luis Gil, Sebastian Velazquez, Olmes Garcia, etc. All have played a role in important matches thus far and will continue to be critical to the success of RSL.
2. We are new.
Part of RSL being young is also that we are very new. New to the league, new to the team, new to the country. With the departure of Jamison Olave, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Kyle Reynish, Johnny Steele and others, RSL was forced/decided to bring in new talent. However you want to look at it, there is a lot of "getting to know you" going on in the club. As of right now we have not played two consecutive games with the same starting 11. Blame injuries, blame call ups, blame whatever you want, that makes it very difficult to get consistent. New is not bad, but it takes time to get used to. New players, maybe even in new positions, make consistency very difficult.
3. We are inconsistent.
This comes from being as young as we are and from adding as many pieces as we have. Not having the same starting line up two matches in a row is rare and not something that should be recommended. Playing with people you've played with consistently makes the game easier. It flows quickly and it's almost as if you know where each player is going to be without even thinking about it, or where a player wants you to be without them asking. It takes time to get to that point. The good part about the inconsistency in the line up is that it is allowing a lot of players to see first team minutes. This will be beneficial in the long run. The bad thing about it is without consistency, style becomes difficult. You may have noticed that many of our build ups end in stifled attacks, bad passes, or bad shot selection. Better passing, more fluid movement in the attack, and even better defending comes from familiarity and time. Which is the very frustrating thing about inconsistency.
4. We are frustrating.
Let's just get this out there. On one week being an RSL fan is the best thing, the next it's pull your hair out from the roots frustrating. In my mind it all comes from inconsistency. Whether it's scoring goals vs not scoring goals, leaky defending vs staunch defending, possession vs playing direct, or whatever. Looking from week to week there have yet to be two performances in a row that inspire hope that a streak of any kind is about to begin. MLS is all about being a team that strikes when the time is right. Let's hope that we can find some consistency coming down the stretch and make the frustration as minimal as possible.
5. We're doing okay.
Looking at that list of what essentially amounts to complaints you might be surprised that #5 is what it is. But let's look at it. With all of those things and the myriad of others that I'm sure others will come up with, are we in dead last? No. Are we losing by 3, 4, or 5 goals? No. As it stands RSL is in 3rd place in the West, has advanced to the next round of the US Open Cup, and in moments is a brilliant team to watch play the game. Fighting up all the issues I've just mentioned, and so many more, we're doing okay. Maybe this viewpoint is based on my "buckle up and hold on" prognostication at the beginning of the season, and maybe that's why expectations are so important. I expected to truly earn my fan-hood-dom (I made that word up, cool right?) this year. Being a supporter is about being there in the good times as well as the not so good times. That my sound like a comment from a guy that doesn't expect more, but you'd be wrong. I do. I expect more, but I expect for that to take some time.