Well Real Salt Lake suffered a huge set back in the final minutes against DC United, "the dive" as it is being called online has rallied soccer fans and writers to demand more and better from MLS and the officials they hire. It cost RSL two points, and those are points that RSL will need to make up as they continue back to their 2 points per match average. Right now we are at 1.69 points per match, and with two matches this week a pair of wins would move RSL up to 28 points from 15 matches (or 1.87 ppm), but getting 6 points from two matches won't be easy. First up will be the Chicago Fire, as RSL head to Toyota Park for a Wednesday showdown, RSL is 2-2-2 on the road with 5 goals scored and just 4 goals allowed, while the Fire are just 1-1-4 at home with 7 goals and 7 goals allowed.
The Fire haven't lost a match in their last 5, but they have just one win in those last 5 matches as well. I am constantly confused why the Fire seem to struggle at home every year, yet they do and for RSL that could be a good thing we were able to get 1-0 wins over the Fire both at Toyota Park and Rio Tinto Stadium last year. In the preseason, I thought that the Fire had added some interesting pieces and would be a decent side this year but with just one win in the first 3 months of the season was enough for a coaching change as Frank Klopas took over recently, but when I look at the facts I see that 24 players already have played for them this year and we aren't even at the halfway point of the season. The experiment of Diego Chvaes and Gaston Puerari is over as Puerari was sold to Atlas and you have to wonder who might be next to go as the rebuilding will probably start all over again.
The Key Match Up, the Wildcards, and my prediction after the jump:
Key Match Up:
Patrick Nyarko & Dominic Oduro vs. RSL's Defense-
Speed kills, well that is the saying and for the Chicago Fire they will try to use their speedy attackers Oduro and Nyarko against RSL's midfield and defense. I think they forget that Will Johnson isn't exactly slow, neither is Tony Beltran and don't even think you can out run Jamison Olave.
The simple fact is that only two players on the current Fire roster have ever scored a goal against RSL, Dominic Oduro has 3 goals in 11 matches against RSL, while Patrick Nyarko has a goal against RSL from his 4 matches against the team, but beyond that not a single player on the current Fire roster have ever scored against RSL. Oduro has become the spotlight of the Fire attack as he scored 3 of their last 5 goals and all of those came since Pappa left for the team for national team duty.
I think it is funny that perhaps the three players who may play the biggest roles for RSL in slowing down those speedy attacking players for the Fire will be guys with ties to Chicago. Andy Williams played in Chicago before RSL took him in the expansion draft, Will Johnson played with the Fire before going to Europe and eventually landing with RSL, and Ned Grabavoy grew up in the area. So while the RSL defense has plenty of speed between Beltran and Olave, I believe it will come down to possession and passing for RSL, if they can dominate possession it will limit the number of runs the Fire can make and shots they can take.
Marco Pappa -
It is hard to consider the guy who should be the engine that drives the Chicago Fire as a wildcard but for some reason he seems to have not been the focal point this year. He has 4 goals and 1 assist, but I think he is the guy you build a team around if you are the Fire. He has faced Real Salt Lake 4 times and has just 1 assist but has taken 10 shots, I really hope he doesn't decide to open his Real account on Wednesday.
Well Fire fans will be very familiar with Andy Williams who played there for a couple years and was their top assist guy in both 2003 and 2004, but this year it has been a mixed bag for Andy, who has been called to fill in a bunch of different roles with RSL. He has just 6 starts this year and has played just about half of RSL's available minutes but so far he has only gotten one goal for his efforts, in large part to him being designated to wing play early in the season. Now he has become one of the options to fill in for the injured Javier Morales, and I think being the primary playmaker in the midfield has forced Andy to spend more time looking for passes than chances to take shots. Well I have a feeling that we might see a change in that over the next couple matches, hopefully starting on Wednesday night. Andy does have 1 goal and 3 assists for RSL against his former team.
Well last weekend we saw it not only in the RSL match but in several matches across the league the impact of officials. The inconsistency is the only constant, as calls are being missed, bad calls are being made and teams are left scratching their heads on what they can do to wrestle control of matches away from the officials. Juan is a newcomer to MLS, this will be his 5th match as the referee. In his previous 4 matches he has called an average of 31.5 fouls, issued and average of 3.0 yellow cards. Once he has shown a player red and twice he has pointed to the PK spot. Each week I ask for the match to be called the same for both teams, and most weeks they are called poorly for both teams, but last weekend's matches brought the standard to new lows for MLS officials and I can only hope that all the attention will get their attention to do a better job.
Well for RSL there will be no better time to get a win on the road than Wednesday, the Fire have just one win at home this year (1-1-4) but to do that they will need to do a couple things. First, possession and passing for RSL they do best when they can dictate possession by controlling the ball over 55% of the time and against the Fire I would like to see that number even higher. Another part of this will be passing, RSL usually completes over 75% of their passes in matches but to control this match I think they will need that number closer to 80%.
Second, limit Fire chances, it may sound easy but the reality is over their last 3 matches the Fire have averaged over 16 shots per match. For RSL they will need to control that number to 12 or less unless they want to force Nick Rimando into a lot of action on the night. With our defense we should be able to shut down the Fire attack quickly before they get into position to take shots and that will require the work of everyone on the pitch.
Finally, to get a win RSL will need to remove the officials from the equation. We saw a bad call cost the team points at home last weekend, that wouldn't have happened if the team had converted one of their chances into a second goal. We saw in Columbus that we can't bunker for extended periods of time, there are simply too many good players in the league to do that. We saw in Philly that a slow start can cost us as well, but we showed that we can come from behind and do good things. In Chicago a solid start should avoid having to come from behind, and getting a multiple goal lead will prevent the officials from being able to decide the outcome of the match.
I think it will take an early goal from RSL, and then an insurance goal for them to get a 2-1 win. The Fire haven't lost a match since Frank Klopas took over, lets introduce him to losing.
OFF MY SOAPBOX