Well in what may have been the biggest match of the summer at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake did what was needed and secured a huge 3 points from their 2-0 win over Western Conference rival FC Dallas. If we look at what I thought would be the keys to a victory, the first key was possession and passing. RSL controlled 61% of the possession and were able to complete 78% of their 433 passes, both were huge factors that contributed to the win.
Then I set a goal of at least 15 shots for RSL and holding FC Dallas to fewer than 10, well RSL ended up just short with 12 shots but had a huge 7 shots on goal, while FC Dallas managed just 9 shots and only two of them were on goal.
The final thing that I thought would be a deciding factor in the match was the ability for RSL to keep their composure and on the pitch they did just that, despite some play acting by some FC Dallas players I thought RSL did well in keeping their cool and not getting drawn into silly cards.
Well OK Kyle's yellow for dissent was a silly card but I understand why he was frustrated and said what he said. There was also a bit of displeasure shown by Alvaro Saborio when he was subbed out of the match in the 88th minute, he clearly wanted to keep playing and while I like that passion it was fairly clear that he was out of gas and taking a couple of hard fouls. He has to understand that bringing on fresh legs and someone who could play some tough defense if need be was to secure the win. I am sure things will be just fine.
more thoughts after the jump:
I love that Andy Williams had enough on his free kick that despite blocking the initial shot Kevin Hartman was unable to hold on and the ball had enough juice to make it over the goal line. I think I have to give my man of the match honors to Tony Beltran, who had the huge task of marking Brek Shea and kept him to 2 shots, none on goal. Shea was limited to 7 complete passes, 17 of his passes were incomplete, he was also tackled and lost possession 21 times, the majority of those were the work of Tony Beltran. Beyond just defending Shea, Tony was doing great offensive work, several times he was able to get quality balls played into the area on the ground and if RSL's forwards and midfielders can find a way to anticipate these plays on crash the box RSL could have a new dimension added to their attack.
Of course anyone who paid attention to the match has to mention the incredible save by Chris Wingert, in his first start back since picking up an injury almost a month ago, Chris had a huge play when a shot was just beyond the gloves of an outstretched Nick Rimando it was Wingert who came out of nowhere and cleared the ball off the line to keep out a sure goal and kept the lead at 1-0 for RSL.
I love how our defense was able to bring in two fresh players from what had become the normal lineup of the last few matches and show so well against FC Dallas, Nick Rimando said it best:
"Schuler stepped in again and played well with his confidence, and Olave stepped up again today, but I think the play of the day was Chris [Wingert] coming back and getting that ball before it went over the line."
I was very impressed with the play of Chris Schuler last night, very solid and each match he seems to get better and better. I have to believe that we will see him get the start in Vancouver on the turf, this time likely in place of Jamison Olave.
The midfield was simply rock solid as always and in a matchup between perhaps the two best midfields in MLS it was good to see that RSL came out on top, even without Daniel Hernandez there for FC Dallas it was a still a very good midfield put out there by Dallas. Kyle was the bulldog that everyone knows him to be, breaking up plays and making some great passes, Ned was all over the place on both sides of the ball and while he often gets over looked by many, I think his play has been the difference maker for RSL in dealing with the injury to Javier Morales. Ned has been working at a huge rate each match and covering a lot of ground, he has made some huge plays to win possession of the ball and often is one of the guys starting the RSL offensive breaks. Will Johnson always amazes me with the work rate and how productive he can be, he played a bit more defensive last night but it worked out. Then there is the ageless wonder, Andy Williams provided that spark on offense and his creativity was first class, the goal was frosting on the cake.
Up top I was amazed that Saborio didn't find the back of the net, he had a couple of great looks and was very active in the match. RSL should probably sign Luis Gil to a contract extension, the 17 year old continues to get better each match and when he decides to start taking shots instead of passing he could really provide even more depth up top for RSL. He made some great runs and worked his way into great positions all night, he really should have had more than on shot last night. Fabi came on late and provided some fresh legs and energy, his work rate on both sides of the ball simply is impressive.
I loved the aggressive nature of the RSL subs last night, to take off Ned and bring in Fabi with 25 minutes to go showed that Jason knew that a second goal would be important, with FC Dallas pushing late in the match bringing in Collen Warner for Andy gave us more fresh legs and a bit more defensive minded play, and while Saborio wasn't happy coming off with just a few minutes to go, Jean provided size and strength late in the match and thankfully we didn't need him to do much work defensively but his high pressure on the ball was a key to breaking up a couple FC Dallas possessions.
I thought it was a match were RSL played the best team in MLS and just like earlier this year when they beat the Galaxy, we forced them to play our style of match and we proved that we were the better team.
So I can't help but think that the momentum from Saturday night will help RSL as they head to Pizza Hut Park for their quarterfinal match in US Open Cup action against FC Dallas. Then my thoughts turned back to MLS action, RSL will head to Empire Field to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday the 16th, RSL need to find a way to get a big road win in that match. The Whitecaps have lost 4 straight matches so you know they will be pulling out everything they can to get a result against RSL next weekend.
For RSL it is about closing the gap with LA, Dallas and Seattle, and finding a way to get those 3 points would be huge in doing so. Let's take a look at how things stack up right now:
- LA Galaxy - 39 points from 21 matches, 1.857 points per match
- FC Dallas - 34 points from 19 matches, 1.789 points per match
- Seattle Sounders - 32 points from 20 matches, 1.6 points per match (they play at Portland on Sunday)
- Real Salt Lake -30 points from 17 matches, 1.764 points per match
So you can see how close the actual race for the Supporters' Shield is, less than one tenth of a point per match currently separates the teams at the top of the table. RSL has two more home matches in July, the 23rd against San Jose and the 30th against the Columbus Crew, both will be huge in helping RSL lift their points per match average if they can get wins. I have to believe with Fireworks that 23rd will sell out for RSL, and the 30th is a season ticket holder trade in date, so it is a great chance to get value from any unused tickets and bring out family and friends. Would love to see both matches sell out in support of RSL as they will only be home 5 more times after July in regular season action.
OFF MY SOAPBOX