OK it is late or early depending on your perspective, I am a bit tired and a bit drunk so forgive me if I ramble a bit.
So over the last two weeks have seen RSLat some of their best, the 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend, and some of their worse, the first 15 minutes against Columbus in that 2-0 loss and honestly the whole match at Sporting KC which ended in another 2-0 loss. So the question is what RSL team will show up when they walk out of the tunnel Saturday evening at BMO Field? My honest answer is that I simply an not sure but if we get a team that can play close to the style of what we saw at Rio Tinto against New York well then RSL should have little issue getting their 3rd road win of the season.
For Toronto FC, the deals keep on coming and few names from the opening day roster are still there. The Red's have made huge changes bringing in a couple of DP's, Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans, bothof who have shown some impressive abilities. There are some guys from around MLS that now call Toronto home, Ryan Johnson came from San Jose, Andy Iro came from Columbus, and Eric Avila came from FCDallas. With so many changes the challenge for Aron Winter and his staff is getting these individuals to play as a team. In MLS you can only go so far off individual performances.
There are some big injuries on both sides as RSLcontinue to move forward without Javier Morales and more recently without Jamison Olave. While TFC have their original DP, Julian de Guxman, listed as questionable along with Nathan Sturgis, Terry Dunfield, Gianluca Zavarise, and Eddy Viator. One bit of good news for RSL is that they got the return of Paulo Jr. on Tuesday, if only for 30 minutes in a reserve league match, not sure if he will be available in the 18 on Saturday.
more after the jump:
So it is late and I am going to jump over a couple of things, or at least offer a "lite" view of them. So for me one of the big matchups will be the battle in the midfield, RSLapplied great pressure against New York all over the pitch, lead by the midfield. and with TFC playing a semi 4-3-3 it will be interesting if RSLcan keep that kind of pressure on. Bothof the outside guys up top Joao Plataand Ryan Johnson have good pace, something New York was lacking withthe suspension of Dane Richards. The projected midfield for TFC features 3 guys who are all new to the team in Deunfield, Avila, and Frings, while the RSL diamond will likely feature the same 4 as last weekend.
Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, and Andy Williams are all very familiarwith each other, the 4thman will probably be the 17 yr old Luis Gil. Gil got his first MLS goal last week and at that top of the diamond did well in providing a breath of fresh air into the offense.It will be interesting to see how he does on the road, at least now when you play a BMO you aren't having to play on turf. I have to believe that the teamwork of the RSLmidfield will give them an edge but clearly they are facing guys who were brought in for a reason on the other side of the pitch.
I could list the entire TFC roster as wildcards, since so many of them are simply unknown factors. For many the only name they will likely recognize is Stephan Frei in goal, who is a good keeper but because of the chaos in front of him this year has allowed in a league high 46 goals, which is 10 more than the next most for a MLSteam. When compared to the stingy 16 goals that RSL has allowed you can now understand why there are so many new names on the roster for Toronto.
For RSL the wildcardwould likely have to be young Mr. Gil, who has in the last 12 months really put in the hard work to become a player who has the potential to be a star in the league. He has a good first touch, great speed, a maturity on the ball, and creativity that comes from confidence (something you don't see often from 17 yr olds).
Once again RSL will have a fairly inexperienced referee, Mark Kadlecik has been in charge of just 11 MLSmatches, during which he has called an average of 23.5 fouls, issued an average of 3.2 yellows per match. Three times he has pulled out the red card (better than 25% of his matches) and the same can be said of PK's where three has been the magic number as well. The last few RSLmatches it has seemed that the officials have avoided making the tough calls and often at the expense of making many calls at all. I think I like it better this way than what we say during the stretch of bad calls both for and against RSL.
So to win the match RSL will need to do what are the keys for them almost every match, possess, pass, and pester. We know that when RSL has possession in the high 50 to 60 percent range it allows them to dictate the pace of the match and that lets them use the short passing game to really create open spaces as opposing sides are forced to chase the action. Letting the ball do the work is always a key and for RSL when they complete above 80% of their passes it usually is a very good thing for them, and it allows for better movement with the ball and off the ball as well. Finally pester, this has a two fold aspect for me, it means attacking the ball all over the pitch, high pressure, and taking a good number of quality shots. When you face the team that has given up the most goals, a team that has given up 8 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches, a team that has given up multiple goals is almost half of their matches played so far this year, well you have to put pressure on them and get some goals.
I think RSL will do just that, score early and hopefully score often. I am going with a big 3-1 road victory for RSL, I think last weekend was that moment in the year where they saw what can happen when they allow themselves to play as well as they can and while RSL has never scored a regular season goal at BMO Field, the reality is that they haven't faced a TFC side that is allowing more than 1.25 goals per match at home.
OFF MY SOAPBOX