Well despite their name the San Jose Earthquakes weren't the force of nature that gave RSL the most trouble on Saturday night. It was the driving rain and 20 plus mile per hour winds that cause more trouble for the cobalt and claret as players slipped and slide all night and every ball played in the air was an adventure.
Nick Rimando was a monster in goal tonight making some of those trademark game changing saves and he is my clear choice for RSL's man of the match. Kyle Beckerman found himself unmarked at the top of the area in the 64th minute and he put it off the post and in for the only goal of the match. He played a great match in addition to the goal as it wasn't until RSL scored that San Jose actually started playing a more offensive style, Kyle was all over the middle of the pitch making great offensive passes and breaking up the Quakes possession all night long.
I am bit baffled on how it appears that the slick surface impacted RSL more than it seemed to bother the Quakes, one has to hope that with similar conditions forecast for Salt Lake next weekend (like anyone can do a 7 day forecast for Salt Lake) the RSL will be better prepared for the conditions.
after the jump, some further thoughts on the match:
So I am going to run from the back to the front and let you know what I thought of everyones performance, there is nothing you can say about Nick Rimando other than excellent. He made big saves and keep the backline organized despite a couple miscues he was able to get the 2nd straight opening day shut out on the road.
Chris Wingert played very well and I thought he did a great job of getting forward when he could and making sure he was back in position on defense, some critical plays were handled with purpose and poise. Tony Beltran was one of the players who really seemed to struggle with his footing tonight but he was able to overcome it and made some outstanding plays on both sides of the ball. Chris Schuler had a couple mistakes but he also made some huge players for RSL, he did well in moving forward with the ball and making some nice passes. I am sure his comfort level will improve with more minutes. Nat Borchers was rock solid, he did all the right things to keep his team in the match.
Ned Grabavoy got the start and was just inches away from getting the matches first goal, I always like how Ned plays as he is solid with possession and control but has moments of offensive excellence and that was what he did tonight. He forced the Quakes to react to him, in doing so he caused them to pick up a couple yellow cards that impacted how guys could play in the second half. I have already told you how impressive Kyle was in this one, a simply great match from him. Javier Morales had men covering him all night long but he still found ways to be dangerous and controlled long stretches of the match. Will Johnson was another guy who had to deal with slipping and sliding all night but as always his energy and effort were huge as RSL simply forced San Jose to defend and pray for most of the match. Jean Alexandre came on for Ned and was a physical force, the shame is that the officials clearly are treating him like the did Olave for his first couple years in the league, thinking he is just a big physical player, but Jean made some incredible plays tonight in limited minutes and I expect him to make an impact all year long.
While our strikers didn't score any goals tonight, they were dangerous and forced the Quakes to often play with all 11 men behind the ball, it was clear in the first half that San Jose was going to try to slow down the RSL offensive play and force them to deal with clogged passing lanes and a crowded final third. I thought Fabi played a great match except for a couple little mental breakdowns, like when you run into a defender and fall down you aren't going to get the call and then kicking the ball away from the keeper to get a yellow card that was just an emotional breakdown. He is so much better than that, and I expect that next weekend when he is the go to guy up top since Sabo will be on national team duty. Speaking of Sabo, he had a couple great chances on the night but it clearly looked like the conditions also impacted his play, RSL will miss him next weekend. He is such a threat on set pieces and tonight he made some incredible turns despite being double and triple covered most of the night.
RSL used two subs up top on the night but both came after the team was ahead and both were more about trying to create possession than they were about going for a second goal, the first was Arturo Alvarez who took over for Fabi in the 65th minute. I thought Avarez played very well, he made some plays that showed how dangerous he can be, he made some great plays on the ball and had some sublime passes. Paulo Jr. came on for Saborio with 7 minutes left in the match and he had just a couple touches on the ball so we were unable to see his typical creative flair.
Overall a good effort in horrible conditions by RSL, and getting a win on the road to start the season is exactly what they needed.
OFF MY SOAPBOX