So Real Salt Lake has seen a number of streaks end in recent weeks, first there home undefeated streak in all competitions was ended by the Monterrey in the Champions League final 1-0. It was a hard fought match but in the end RSL couldn't finish their chances and they lost the match, now people can look at a number of things to try to come up with why RSL lost, but a month later that doesn't matter much now.
The reality is that having so much at stake early in the year was a very dangerous thing for the team, playing for what would have been the biggest title in MLS history that early in the MLS season was a lose-lose. If the team had won, a lot of folks imagined it would have been impossible for RSL to stay focused on the task of the MLS season with the jewel of the World Club Cup dangling in the future. While I tend to disagree with them, I do understand their concerns and thoughts, for me the risk was much worse if the team lost the match. When that happened, I could see from the look on the players, staff, and fans faces that it was going to be really tough to recover. In fact I am not surprised that a month later there still seems to be some type of "funk" from that match, but when just 10 days later for players, staff and fans to have to watch one of the critical parts of the team go down with a horrid injury, it would have been easy to just throw up your hands in frustration.
Then there was the loss on Saturday, the team came out and played well for 10-15 minutes but when their efforts weren't rewarded with a goal, the as usual lately start playing more flatly. The same of the second half, they come out and really play well for 15 minutes or so, then the red card to Olave and the whole dynamic changes. I did like that RSL didn't just quit after going down 1-0 or even at 2-0, they battled on but the issue remains finishing. RSL took 16 shots in the match, a solid number with 6 on target, 2 off target and 8 blocked. I still think there is a tentative nature to the RSL attack, guys who have fairly open shots choosing instead to pass the ball and allowing defenses a chance to recover. In 2009 the team lead the league in shots taken, last year they dropped to the middle of the pack, and now they rank near the bottom. I do believe that the scoring will come, I do believe that we will see some guys understand that taking shots may not always directly lead to a goal, but can create chaos and opportunities in the area.
more thoughts after the jump:
With or without the injury to Javier Morales, Gold Cup call ups were going to really test RSL, but when you also throw in the injury to Paulo Jr being worse than expected, and add on top the injury to Cody Arnoux's good knee and all of a sudden the "funk" can look much worse than just a funk. When you combine the match at Portland with the May matches for RSL the team is 1-2-2 in their last 5 matches, after going 4-0-0 in their first 4 matches of the season, things look kinda bleak. I guess for me I look at all the factors and then I look at the standings and see that we have 17 points from 9 matches, or 1.89 points per match and I don't get too upset.
Now I have to admit the current form is a bit discouraging but considering all the factors that the team has had to deal with, again I don't get too upset. I mean LA has a 1.93 points per match average and haven't had to deal with anything close to what RSL has had to deal with. The top team in the East is the Philly Union who have a 1.82 points per match average, but again without having to deal with anything close to the issues that RSL has had to.
So then I look at the schedule for June, and it will have RSL playing in 6 matches over the course of the month, half of them at home and half on the road. First up is Vancouver who will come to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, if ever there was a match to get healthy in, it could be this one. The Whitecaps have played OK but they are 0-4-1 away from Empire Field, so anything less than 3 points will simply be unacceptable. Then it will be a East coast (kinda) double header, first is a midweek match on June 8th at Crew Stadium and a Saturday match at PPL Park against the Philadelphia Union. Those are tough matches but I think if RSL can manage a couple draws they would be OK for them, given the situation.
The last 3 matches of the month hold out more promise for RSL, they will have had time to make further adjustments to their Gold Cup call ups. On June 18th DC United will come to Rio Tinto, and this will be a great test for RSL, the Black and Red are getting better but still have a lot of room for improvement, a win in this one would be expected and could provide a real boost to morale (both team and fans). Then a road trip midweek on the 22nd to Chicago to face the Fire, and this is a perfect chance for a road win. The Fire have really been struggling, and while they have made a long anticipated change at head coach, I doubt 3 weeks is enough time to get this team playing well. Finally RSL will close the month on the 25th when Toronto FC will come to Rio Tinto Stadium, this like the Vancouver match is one where the team can and must get a win. The Red's are awful, if you don't believe me go back and watch their match from the weekend against Philly.
So in June I would think that RSL would have to be happy to end the month 3-1-2, I could live with that. I think if the team comes out with less than 3 wins there will be a lot of question, and anything more than 1 loss will also cause a lot of questions
Anyhow those are just some thoughts.
OFF MY SOAPBOX