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Real Salt Lake 1 - New York Red Bulls 0 - post match thoughts

It was another match of two halves for RSL, maybe in part to the hamstring injury suffered early in the second half by Fabian Espindola, but clearly RSL played a very different second half.  I am getting ahead of myself so let's back up a bit to the first half.  The first 30 minutes of matches have become RSL's feeding ground at home, and Saturday night was no different.  The first shot was from Andy Williams in just the second minute, but it was some creative passing that got the ball from Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales to an oncharging Fabian Espindola who put it past Greg Sutton in the 4th minute of the match to give RSL the 1-0 lead early.  

This was the 20th goal of the season that RSL has scored in the first half of matches and their record when scoring the first goal is now 12-1-1, New York's record when allowing the first goal is 1-8-1.  RSL wasn't done after that first goal and they ended up with 8 shots in the first half, with 5 being on goal, New York took 3 shots but each of them was on goal.  New York started playing a very physical match as it was clear they were being out played early on and they ended the first half with 11 fouls and two yellow cards, RSL committed 3 fouls and got one yellow in the first half on a brutal collision between Jamison Olave and Greg Sutton.  The yellow card to Olave means that he will not be making the trip to Seattle as he will be suspended one match for yellow card accumulation.  The end of the first half came and RSL was in front 1-0 and playing very well.

my thoughts on the second half after the jump:


The second half RSL seemed to be attacking New York's players less in the midfield early and that only got worse when Espindola had to leave in the 50th minute with a hamstring injury (I only hope he can quickly recover).  I think part of it was some adjustment in how New York was playing, instead of trying to let the match come to them they started attacking the ball the way RSL had in the first half.  New York out shot RSL in the second half 6 to 5 and they held a 3 to 2 advantage in shots on goal but Nick Rimando and the RSL defense held their ground.  

I have to stop here and say that for me the man of the match was Andy Williams, he was everywhere during the match and made some great offensive plays but it was his defense that simply blew me away.  Andy along with Kyle Beckerman both made dramatic clearances of balls off the goal line in the match and allowed Nick and RSL's defense to pick up their 11th clean sheet of the season which is a new team record for RSL.  It really was a collective defensive effort as everyone played a vital part in the defense and shutting down a duo of forwards who could go down in history as the best ever to play in MLS.  RSL really did a great job of limiting the touches of both Juan Pablo Angel and Thierry Henry, I was very impressed with how we played against those two.  Oh and it was Olave who got Henry's jersey after the match.

When the final whistle blew the scoreboard still showed 1-0 and RSL picked up 3 huge points to move them to a new team record of 43 (with 7 matches remaining).  The win also means that RSL is now tied with the Columbus Crew for the longest unbeaten streak at home, at 22 matches with a 15-0-7 record.  

The results on Saturday of LA and Chicago ending in a 1-1 draw, Columbus getting a 1-0 win over DC United, and FC Dallas getting a 1-0 win over Toronto FC mean that the Western Conference is now:

Los Angeles Galaxy - 44 pts
Real Salt Lake - 43 pts
FC Dallas - 40 pts
Colorado Rapids - 34 pts
Seattle Sounders - 32 pts
San Jose Earthquakes - 29 pts (they play at Houston on Sunday)
Houston Dynamo - 23 pts
Chivas USA - 22 pts

The race for the Supporters' Shield has tightened up to what is really a 5 team race:

LA Galaxy - 44 pts
Columbus Crew - 44 pts
Real Salt Lake - 43 pts
FC Dallas - 40 pts
New York Red Bulls - 37 pts

Real Salt Lake will play a critical road match on Thursday in Seattle, a win there could leapfrog them over both LA and Columbus and let them put the pressure on other teams to have to chase them next weekend.  The match on Thursday will be on ESPN2, and due to some personal issues I will be unable to go to Seattle to cover the match. I have the video from the post match press conference processing and I am awaiting the official post match comments from both locker rooms and I will post that early on Sunday.

I am going to say this and I know there are some people out there who will probably not like to hear it, Thierry Henry coming to MLS may be one of the best things to ever happen to the league. I heard a quick story that I wanted to share with you all about him, and you have to remember this is a player who probably has 30-50 million Euro's in the bank and clearly isn't here for a quick paycheck.  

New York got into Salt Lake City late yesterday, they had a team meal at the hotel and at 9:45 Thierry Henry (World Cup winner, Champions League winner) walked into a room to do an interview with the local media, the first thing he did was walk around the room and introduce himself and shake hands with everyone there.  I think Dunny put it best "Any MLS player who turns down an interview in the future should learn from a class act like Henry".

Now we don't have to love him, his fans will do that, but it is clear from his willingness to talk with the local media both via conference call and after arriving late yesterday is an example that all other players and Designated Players in particular should learn from.