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Real Salt Lake 4-0 over San Jose Earthquakes - match thoughts

Well the big question on most people's mind is was it or wasn't it a dive?  I have watched the online replay of it about 5 times and to be honest it very well could be, I do think there was slight contact, I do think that the turn Sabo made had him off balance as well, but I do think he went down much too easily.  I don't believe that Bobby Burling deserved a red card.  Will I compare this to the clearly intended dive of Charlie Davies, nope because I don't believe it was premeditated like that play clearly was when Charlie quickly turned around looking for the call..  Yet it is a lot more like the call from the New England match, a bad angle by the referee a PK and red card that weren't warranted, the only difference in this case was that the ref did talk with his assistant who had a better angle and they still got the call wrong.  Perhaps the soccer gods do believe in karma?

Clearly this was again a match were the officials made mistakes that changed the match, I will however point out that at the point of the red card and PK, RSL had really started to dominate the match.  They were up 13 shots to 3 and the defensive tactics of the Quakes were breaking down, the only reason the match was still 0-0 were a couple of great saves by Jon Busch.  In the end it would end up 24 shots to 3, 13 shots on goal to 1, and even before the PK it looked like just a matter of time before RSL would find the back of the net.

more thoughts after the jump:

I thought RSL came out rather flat for the first 15 minutes of the match and in fact they didn't take a shot until the 22nd minute of the match, in the later portion of the first half RSL started to dominate possession, their passing got sharper and they actually had two very good scoring chances taken away by bad offsides calls.  The second half was clearly dominated by RSL in every aspect of the game both before and after the controversial calls.  I will be perfectly honest that I was surprised that Brad Ring wasn't sent off as well for the accidental shot to the face he had on Ned Grabavoy while protesting the PK and red card.  While it wasn't intentional it was a fairly hard shot with his arm directly to the face of Ned.

Now while I understand the outrage of the Quakes players first at a bad call, then second at the red card being shown to the wrong player, have you ever seen a team react so poorly.  Go back and rewatch the RSL players disgust with the CD9 dive or the Borchers red card, and you won't see 5 minutes of yelling and screaming at officials the way that Jon Busch and other players did.

What is missing in all of this talk about the PK call and red card is the rest of the match, after the 20th minute this match was all RSL, better possession, better passing, better shots, and if you watch more than just the highlights you would see that it was really just a matter of time before San Jose, who were gassed from their midweek match with Vancouver and then drained by dealing with the elevation and RSL's forcing them to chase the ball and defend, were going to give up a goal.

For all the complaining that the Quakes players have done, go back just a couple weeks when a bad call in the 3rd minute of the match went against RSL and New England was issued a PK and Nat Borchers was sent off.  Did RSL fold up shop and just quit?  Nope in fact they continued to fight back and work hard and despite being down a man for 60 minutes they continued to maintain possession, and worked hard to get a 3-3 draw despite being down a man for so long in the match.  San Jose on the other hand quit, now part of it may have been those issues I listed above but in the final 27 minutes of the match they did little to try to get back into the match, they didn't take another shot, and they allowed RSL to simply dominate the possession as Quakes players just stopped chasing the ball.

In this match I thought the play of most of the Quakes was fairly average, Wondolowski didn't do much and didn't even take a shot in the match, thanks in part to the RSL defense keeping him out of the action.  I thought Tim Ward and Nana Attakora were simply awful during the run of play, both got beat a number of times on basic plays.  Scott Sealy was the most dangerous Quakes player along with Khari Stephenson were the only players who showed much interest in the match.  Jon Busch had a great match up to the PK call, his saves on Espindola's efforts were incredible.  I thought it was clear that this San Jose team had come in looking for a draw, they were tired from their midweek match, they were missing a number of players for various reasons, and it showed in how they played.

For RSL it has been funny how when we get a call that goes our way there is outrage from everyone in the world about it.  Yet few of these people had any compassion for us when Borchers was wrongly red carded, and a few showed the same level of venom when Charlie Davies went down on no (not light) but no contact what so ever in the ending minutes of a match.  Yes Sabo went down too easy, but there was light contact, yes I still consider it a dive and I will not be surprised if MLS issues some type of punishment for him.  Actually I wouldn't be surprised if they punish him more than Davies, simply because he isn't one of their poster children players.

Now that we have all that done, I want to mention the efforts of a couple of players that simply played an incredible match on Saturday night, first up is Fabian Espindola.  Fabi played in control of his emotions, timed his runs well and had to great shots that forced Jon Busch to make great saves, but for me it was the work of Fabi off the ball that once again was so very impressive as his work rate was top notch.  I also thought that Ned Grabavoy and Will Johnson did great work on the edges of the diamond formation, their pressure on both sides of the ball allowed the team to keep San Jose from having many dangerous chances and in part their efforts played a huge role in the Quakes having just 3 shots all night and causing Nick Rimando to only have to make one real save.

I thought Kyle Beckerman played one of his better matches of the year, as he played what I think he enjoys which is a bit more of an offensive style, his run into the box to clean up the botched saved of the Saborio shot for the 3rd RSL goal was simply classic and proves that taking shots and crashing the area can pay off big time.  Our defenders were simply the best once again, from the runs of Tony Beltran and Robbie "waffles" Russell on the outside, or the amazing work of Nat Borchers to simply be in the right place at the right time.  My friend from the UK however was simply amazed by Jamison Olave, who he believes could easily be playing in Europe, perhaps no play was more telling of what Olave can do than when a ball was played into the RSL end and Chris Wondolowski went chasing it, from about 5 yards behind him came a 6'2 220lb freight train that is Olave and Jamison simply ran right past him as it seemed he just shifted into another gear.

I think if you want to know the difference between RSL and other teams you can look at two matches, our 3-3 draw with New England where the team battled back from bad calls and showed their heart in earning a point where most teams would have given up after getting a red card to a player in the 3rd minute, and Saturday's match when they got a break and a bad call actually went in their favor and they did what a team should with a man advantage, they finished the match in grand fashion.

Yes Alvaro Saborio went down too easily on light contact, yes I consider what he did a dive, and while I find his play much less egregious than what Charlie Davies did, I expect MLS will levy either a similar or more harsh punishment on Saborio, who lacks their "star power" of CD9.  In the Davies case I put the majority of blame where it belonged on the officials for making a bad call (in that case the ref didn't confer with his assistant) and in this case where he did, they both got it wrong.  Here is a note for you all, there were plenty of bad calls in the match that didn't make the highlight reel, including two very bad offside calls that stopped great runs by RSL.

Now we get the All Star match and then back to MLS action, next up Columbus.