RSL has struggled against some teams but Texas, well lets be honest the only upside of the new schedule format is that we only have to go to Houston every other year (for now). RSL has never won a match in Texas, we are 0-7-1 against Houston and 0-8-1 against Dallas, folks that is a combined 0-15-2. So it is time to put the past behind us, that means the past record in Texas and the past two matches, it is time for RSL to dig deep and get a win. It would be easy to play the whole "woe is me" game, but there isn't time for that and it is time for the team to step up and do what they do best, dominate from whistle to whistle and win.
At the start of the year the question most often heard about FC Dallas was why were they getting rid of guys like Marvin Chavez via a trade, loaning out Jackson, and simply letting Maicon Santos go who had 8 goals and 2 assists between the two teams he played for last year. I thought each of those moves was probably a mistake, but they did bring in a couple of new faces that were expected to fill those voids and more. Top of the new faces is Blas Perez, who already has 3 goals and 3 assists this season, but thankfully for RSL the MLS Disciplinary Committee saw fit to suspend him for the match on Wednesday. The other big addition is Hernan Pertuz, who has played a couple of positions on defense and started 6 of FCD's 7 matches.
So can Real Salt Lake shake off their recent funk, can the team pick up their first win in the state of Texas, can they take back the top spot in the Western Conference? Well after the jump you will find my Key Match Up, Wildcards, and more:
Key Match Up:
Alvaro Saborio vs. George John & Ugo Ihemelu -
When Alvaro Saborio is focused and energized he is a very dangerous finisher, he has 25 goals in 57 matches for RSL and has been in double digits each of the last two seasons for RSL. The question that plaques most RSL fans about Saborio isn't ability it is workrate, of course it is a bit unfair to compare him with guys like Fabian Espindola and Paulo Jr. who are constantly running. It was best explained to me a few years ago, with forwards you have dogs and cats, cats are the players who are constantly running, constantly doing something, they live to make solo runs and play with the ball, while dogs are a bit more controlled and contained, they know what they are expected to do and that is what they focus on. Now I know there is more to it than that but Saborio is a back to goal, hold the ball, target forward and when he is provided the ball in dangerous positions he usually completes the task at hand.
Wednesday the task at hand will be figuring a way to deal with two big, strong center backs that have established themselves among the best in MLS, Ugo is 6'0" but strong and confident on the ball, while George is 6'3" and a force to be reckoned with in the area. While the FC Dallas defense has struggled a bit to start the season with a 1.43 goal allowed per match average, injuries and lineup changes have played a huge role, you can always expect a very solid effort from them when it is John and Ihemelu in the middle of the back line.
Brek Shea - It is amazing that I can list him as a wildcard but with an exhaustive schedule as pointed out in my 3 questions post he clearly has been a bit fatigued at the start of the MLS season. Still he is a very dangerous player, and in the past he has scored a goal and added an assist in just 271 minutes against RSL. To say that Shea is a handful on and off the ball is an understatement, he is one of those players who if you take your eye off him for a second you might find yourself chasing after him and trying to get the ball back. Quick, big and strong are all physical attributes, but he is also becoming a very smart player, he is learning how to get in the heads of the opposition and how to exploit open spaces on the pitch. He always has the potential to be a game changer.
Javier Morales - Another surprise addition to my wildcard list, but after suffering a couple injuries already this year the question mark remains on when or if we will see the best of Javier Morales. When he is healthy and match fit, everyone considers him one of the best playmakers in MLS, proof of that can be seen in his numbers against FC Dallas, where he has 2 goals and 4 assists in 7 matches. The question will be is he healthy, and after seeing action on Saturday in the RSL shorthanded loss at San Jose, will he be ready for a Wednesday match? I don't know but either starting or off the bench he has shown this year 1 goal and 1 assist in just 2 starts that he can be a wildcard for RSL.
Geoff Gamble - Oh you thought we saw inconsistent behavior and calls last week, get ready cause I am going to predict another wild and crazy match with Geoff in charge. Not because he is a bad official, I don't know but because he lacks experience, this will be his 11th MLS match in charge. He has never been in charge of a RSL match before but one thing stands out to me, 8 PK's issued in 10 matches. His average is 22 fouls per match, 3.3 yellows per match, and he was twice issued red cards. I just expect a very inconsistently called match, I don't think it will be meant to favor either side, but it will likely lead to more controversy this week.
My RSL Starting XI:
Nick Rimando, Terakazu Tanaka, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Luis Gil, Jonny Steele, Paulo Jr., and Alvaro Saborio
Wednesday's match will prove both a mental and physical challenge for RSL, players are coming off the San Jose match worn out from having to play a man down for 40 minutes and two men down for 21, that means everyone else had to work extra hard, then add in the mental anguish of giving up all 3 goals in stoppage time minutes. If that weren't enough add in that this is the second of 5 times that RSL will play Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday this year, so when you add in flight times from both matches, it is clear that RSL will have some tired bodies, which is why I think not having Olave or Fabi who have played extremely hard this year might be a well deserved break for both, and I think RSL will likely make 1-2 additional changes from the lineup on Saturday. Oh and did I mention the mental stress of the streak? Yeah, you know that somewhere deep in the minds of the players is that little additional pressure of never picking up a win in the state of Texas, and combined with everything else it just makes this match all the more important. You can best tell the character of a person or team when they are faced with adversity, not when they are on top, so for RSL this will be a test of their character.
So for RSL to break their unlucky streak in Texas they will need to do the things that they do best, play in control of themselves and the match. No mistakes that result in cheap goals or red cards, have to be careful with an inexperienced official. So lots of short accurate passes 450-500 passes with a completion rate above 80%, which should lead to about 54-56% possession. Now for the tricky part, we have to start showing more offensive effort, force keepers to make saves and with the fact that it may be Chris Seitz in goal all the more reason to fire at least 15 shots tonight and at least 8 of those need to be on goal. Make Seitz make saves, be ready for any loose balls and find a way to force Dallas to play from their heels, we know they have guys who can counter but if we can simply overwhelm them with possession I think we can force them out of their gameplan and into ours.
Still hard to pick against that 0-15-2 record in Texas, but if RSL was ever going to get their first win in Texas this would be a great time to get it. RSL pulls out a 2-0 upset.
OFF MY SOAPBOX