Well there are few things in life that can make me actually enjoy getting another year older, and today most of them were present. I got a chance to spend time with my soccer family, who are some of the best people on the planet (even the crazy uncle or cousin from Philly, thanks Wayne), Real Salt Lake were able to get a huge 3 points at home and them winning 2-1 to make my prediction come true was a bonus.
I was able to support former RSL'er Jamie Watson whose Orlando City team won the USL Pro Championship tonight by wearing my #22 RSL hat which was made for him back in the early days. I was chosen to be one of the lucky fans who got to go on the pitch to get a jersey from one of the players, and thank you Andy while you didn't score a goal, your jersey was appreciated. I got to watch one of the new guys, who has been great with the fans, Cody Arnoux not only get his first appearance on the RSL bench but he also got his first action with RSL in a MLS match. Oh perhaps the best part is that the 3 points moves RSL in front of the Rapids and into fourth place in the Western Conference with 42 points from 25 matches
It was a very good night, the match was exciting and I loved the way that Philly fought back, we have seen teams go down 2 goals at Rio Tinto and just quit (LA, NYRB), but Philly continued to fight and Sebastien Le Toux got his first non-PK goal of the year in the match. Both teams battled hard, but RSL's defense was able to keep the Union to just one goal from 4 shots in the match. Kyle Beckerman's goal was a thing of beauty and the header by Chris Schuler was quality as well, he used his size advantage all night long.
more after the jump:
I was very impressed with Kyle's performance on both sides of the ball, he was a true leader on the pitch and when he was taking the corners he delivered some real quality balls into the area. The midfield in general had a great first half, I thought Philly adjusted well in the second half to balance the midfield battle a bit. Luis Gil continues to show well for himself as he develops into a more complete team player, Collin was active on both sides of the ball all night, and while Andy didn't score he took a couple of quality shots and I was very impressed with his efforts on defense and helping the team battle in the midfield.
Paulo Jr. and Fabian Espindola both made a number of huge runs that kept the Union defense on their toes and forced Faryd Mondragon into making some big time saves to keep the score at 2, enough so that he hurt himself on one save and had to be subbed out at the half.
The defense was solid, Tony Beltran made some great runs and had a couple of crosses that were simply sublime and most nights would have gotten him at least one assist. Chris Schuler not only had the goal but was simply a solid defender and a great target on set pieces, he combined well with Jamison Olave. Olave's battles on set pieces with Danny Califf were simply amazing as these two fought for every inch of space. Robbie Russell was very good on the night, working in support of the offense as well as making sure his defensive duties were kept.
We all know there is only one Nick Rimando and he showed why he is one of the very best keepers in the league again on Saturday.
It was great seeing Ned Grabavoy back on the pitch tonight, he brings a toughness and energy level that is hard to match, I can't wait until he gets back into full match fitness. Cody Arnoux, showed some flashes of why he might be one of those difference makers down the stretch for RSL. Blake Wagner also got his first action with MLS has he came on for Robbie Russell, who left injured late in the second half. I hope we don't have to add Robbie to the list of the many injured RSL players.
OK, I will be posting the official match stuff on Sunday morning, and will try to post a few more things over the holiday weekend. A huge thank you to all the fans who took time to wish me a happy birthday at the match, you are why I keep doing this.
OFF MY SOAPBOX