There are few things more exciting than a 6 point conference match between top teams, there are few things more frustrating than watching the official again make very questionable calls that impact the match. I don't think either of the red cards were warranted and the PK attempt was questionable. The teams battled and the difference ended up being an incredible amount of work and effort by Alvaro Saborio to get the second (and game winning) goal for RSL.
This ended up a very tough and physical match, but the win for RSL given the rest of the results around MLS has to be seen as one of the biggest wins of the season. RSL are now 13-7-6 with 45 points from 26 matches and with win over Seattle they trail them by just 3 points in the standing with two matches in hand, they are within a single point of FC Dallas who lost 2-0 at New England today for 3rd place in the Western Conference. The top 3 teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, while the next 4 best teams will have to play their way in. So finishing in the top 3 gives a team a very distinctive advantage in the playoffs. The Rapids are the team just below RSL and with their 1-0 loss at Los Angeles (the best team in MLS) on Friday, means they trail RSL by 4 points despite having played 3 more matches.
The road to the playoffs for RSL is still a rough one as they have just 3 more home matches this year and 5 on the road. Up next will be a huge test for RSL as the top team in the East, Sporting KC will come to Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday, a match between two teams that have more than a little bad blood between them. After that match next weekend will the the rescheduled One Republic concert, so an extra bonus for fans who come out.
after the jump my thoughts on the individual efforts of the RSL players:
Well I think it is clear that Nick Rimando once again showed that he will do whatever is needed in order to help his team get a win, even if that means taking a ball directly to the face from just feet away. Yeah I know that he probably had no idea that the ball was even coming but human nature for most people is to try to get out of the way of something heading for your face but Nick fought that and ended up making a win saving play.
The defense was less than stellar in my opinion there were plenty of good plays but a good deal of very questionable ones, I think Tony Beltran's yellow cards we both a bit soft, but the reality is that the second one was a silly play for a guy with a yellow card to make in the first half of a match. Robbie Russell looked both great and awful at moments of the match and even Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers both made a number of miscues during the match to go along with the solid plays they also made. Perhaps the biggest surprise on defense was the use of Chris Schuler at outside back, a position that he normally doesn't play but one in which he made a number of great plays against a very good Sounders team that often attacked on that left side of the pitch. He played well against James Riley, who I thought was one of the best Sounders' players in the match, and a couple of time he showed well as he moved forward in support of the offense.
I thought the battle in the midfield would be intense and it was exactly that, perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the 90 minutes that Andy Williams put in. He was good at the start, in the middle and excellent at the end of the match, he was one of the few guys who was able to keep possession for extended periods of time and forced the Sounders to adjust to how he was playing. I thought Luis Gil was good for the minutes he was in, and each week he really does seem to grow in confidence and ease of play. Kyle Beckerman was a bulldog who fought and fought but clearly the pressure that Alonso put on him did impact some of his passes, but still he was able to be very dangerous on both sides of the ball. Will Johnson had his hands full but once again showed why he is one of the valuable players for RSL, his work rate and ability to insert himself into the play wherever the ball is on the pitch, his work rate really does help his team out knowing that he simply doesn't know how to slow down. When Ned Grabavoy came on to help RSL protect their lead, he did what Ned always does, finds the ball going both directions and tries to do whatever he can to help his team.
Up top the efforts of both Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola were very solid, the shot that found Kasey Keller unable to keep it out of the back of the net in the first half was a quality shot and I have to believe that the pressure of Sabo closing in on Keller played a role in his inability to push the ball out of play. Fabi made some great runs in the match and his work rate simply continues to amaze me, he played with his emotions in check today and that is always a good thing when the match gets physical. Sabo worked hard all day and that was clearly evident on the goal that he scored, he fought hard past a rough first touch, he continued to fight after his first shot was blocked and found himself with the ball and was able to take a second shot that was a quality goal and the game winner for RSL. Paulo Jr. came on late in the match for Espindola to simply bring some fresh legs, he made a couple of good runs, but he also showed that ability to be very disruptive when the Sounders held onto the ball too long in the midfield or in their own defensive end of the pitch.
This clearly wasn't a pretty match for RSL, but few matches on the road are, the fact that they kept battling and were able to find a way to get a huge road win, and extend their winning streak to 3 matches will prove very important as the last weeks of the regular season pass by. Overall a solid effort and a huge win.
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