Well RSL did what they knew had to be done, they came out quickly with intensity and pressure and dictated how the match would go. It was a real shame about the mystery call that pulled the first goal of the night by Nat Borchers off the board but Alvaro Saborio would answer in the 9th minute to give RSL the 1-0 lead. Assists on that goal went to Fabian Espindola and Andy Williams. The match got chippy early with Saprissa being whistled for 12 fouls in the first half, to RSL's 6, the Costa Rican's also received 3 yellow cards in the first half. RSL did struggle a bit in the later portion of the first half as they seemed to slow down from the clear pressure the ball and attack game plan. Saprissa did have a ball find the back of the net in the first half but the flag was up for an offsides violation.
The second half saw RSL more focused and Saprissa become a bit more desperate, in the 56th minute Fabian Espindola scored a great goal to give RSL a 2-0 lead, that goal like the first of the match had an assist going to Andy Williams. In the second half, Saprissa became more offensive oriented and out shot RSL 8-6, and had a 4-2 advantage in shots on goal in the second half, but Nick Rimando make a couple of fantastic saves and in the end RSL was able to hold on to the clean sheet at home as the final whistle blew with the score 2-0.
after the jump a couple of quick observations about the match
So I am a bit confused by the officials, as I saw no foul on the Borchers goal and the stat sheet tells me that #30 (former RSL player) Douglas Sequeira got a yellow card in the 81st minute, but I thought he also received one in the first half of the match. Only 4 yellow cards are shown on the stat sheet but I really did believe we saw 5 pulled, it is hard to keep track from the sidelines. I thought the match was called very tightly, but it was called fairly evenly.
Jamison Olave left after the first half with an unknown injury, but RSL head coach Jason Kreis said he fears the worse as it is very unlike Olave to ask to be removed from a match. He was replaced by Chris Schuler, who I thought did a great job filling in on a night when RSL faced some huge pressure.
I was very impressed by the work of our backline, they did an excellent job of pressuring the ball and breaking up attack (as expected) and were very useful in getting forward as opportunities allowed. Tony Beltran was really good tonight filling in for the injured Chris Wingert, the rotation of our outside backs once again proved to be a huge advantage.
The midfield was incredible at pressuring the ball quickly no matter where it was on the pitch, they did very well with their first touch tonight, creating some great passes and forcing the Saprissa midfield to play much of the match on their heels. Javi was all over the place, as were Andy and Will Johnson, Kyle was able to break up a number of their attacks and counters as well.
Fabi once again was playing like a man possessed, and after the match Jason said that all preseason Fabi has had a different look in his eyes, one that shows he is ready to take his game to the next level. I liked that tonight he did a much better job of passing in tight situations, and his goal was a great thing to watch.
Saborio played well against his former team, despite the fact that they clearly looking to use physical play to keep a tight leash on him. He passed well and worked himself into some great position tonight, Saprissa can count themselves fortunate that he didn't get a couple more goals.
I think the most important thing that came out of the match tonight was the clean sheet, now when RSL heads to Costa Rica for the April 5th second leg, they only need a single goal to put incredible pressure on Saprissa who will be forced to play a very aggressive match. RSL should be able to use their width to effectively counter attack and I believe they will be playing for the win.
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