Oh I so wanted to use Jeremy's tagline for the match "RSL Steeles three points late" as my headline but since he has filed his copyright paperwork (thanks legal zoom), I will just mention it. This was a match where every player left the pitch emotionally and physically exhausted, there was nothing but heart, passion, and hard work on display by every player on the pitch. It was frantic, panicked, and not necessarily the best soccer but it was 22 guys fighting for a win, it was what makes soccer my favorite sport, it was passion on display in a physical form.
There was as seems the norm around MLS some controversy on a couple of calls, but in the end I think the result went to the team that played just a bit better and that is how things should be. If anyone thinks that the players of Toronto FC are losers because of their record, they are wrong. Those guys battled hard, and kept coming back and they didn't try to defend for the draw at the end, they were fighting for the win. Both teams late allowed themselves to be stretched out and that created that crazed feeling at the end of the match.
The numbers from the match tell the greater story, RSL had 507 passes to 383 for TFC, RSL completed theirs at a 84% rate, 77% for TFC, RSL took 15 shots, TFC took 10, RSL had 5 on target, TFC had 4, RSL had 57.3% of the possession, just 42.7% for TFC.
more thoughts after the jump:
While neither of our forwards got credit for a goal tonight, both of them put in a ton of work and created a number of chances for themselves and their teammates. Alvaro Saborio actually put a couple of balls into the back of the net but each time the official waved them off, there was one that was allowed but the official scoreline on it is own goal. I thought Fabian Espindola caused the TFC defenders fits all night, he made great runs, earned corner kicks, made some nice crosses into the area. I loved that our forward worked hard on both sides of the ball from whistle to whistle, great effort.
In the midfield you got exactly what we expected to get, a lot of high quality passes, good possession and help creating a ton of offensive chances. Let's start with Javier Morales, who each match is getting closer and closer to the Javi we used to know. He had a bit of a rough start but got better as the match went along, when he is one it is simply a matter of who he chooses to get the ball to, and what they can do with it. Kyle Beckerman was simply Kyle, not sure how else you describe what Kyle does, he is simply near the ball at all times on both ends of the pitch doing what he can to make or break up plays. I think every team knows that the more touches Kyle gets the better Real Salt Lake plays. For a guy who is probably still in a lot of pain from his dislocated ribs, Ned Grabavoy keeps on showing people what he is capable of, he was good on the defensive side of the ball but he also created a number of offensive chances for himself and for his teammates. Will Johnson was battling all over the pitch, it was fun to watch him go at a couple of guys that he plays with on the Canadian National Team, and while I would still love to see Will get more chances to create offensively, he was simply solid all night long. Luis Gil came on later in the match and helped provide some fresh legs and some high pressure on the TFC defense and overall pressure in the midfield, a very solid effort. So remember when it used to be Robbie Findley the "Super Sub" then it was Paulo Jr. who had that title, well in two late appearances and two stoppage time game winning goals, that title now belongs to Jonny Steele. Jonny admitted that his first couple touches were off, heck coming into a match that is flying the way that one was can't be easy, but he found a way to get the job done.
On defense it was the rotation that saw Chris Schuler get another start and once again he impressed me on both sides of the ball. His confidence is growing and it is clear that on a lot of teams in MLS that he is probably a starter, I am growing impressed with his work on set pieces, he created himself as a target several times but the play went elsewhere. On defense he was solid, he stayed where he needed to be and worked well with Olave to ensure coverage on the back line. Jamison Olave is simply a beast, aside from the yellow card tackle that lead to the PK, he had an almost flawless night, his speed was evident when he got into a late foot race with Joao Plata and was able despite having played the full match to keep up with the speedy forward step for step. Chris Wingert got forward a lot in both halves and made himself dangerous, and while I know he loves to take a shot now and again, I would rather see him focus on crosses and passing. Tony Beltran may have been the hardest working RSL player on the night as he was tasked with covering their speediest and most aggressive players, I thought he did well and was still able to move forward to support the offensive attacks when he could. Listen playing against a talented and aggressive TFC side wasn't easy for our guys, and with our efforts to get forward and score it left some gaps that TFC was able to exploit. Still not a bad effort on the night.
Nick RImando made a number of great saves, but that is an every match occurrence for him. You know you are a great keeper when the expectation is that you will make the great saves and that with the match on the line that you will save the day.
Overall the effort was good, remember that this was the 3rd match in a week for RSL plus a lot of travel, so to be forced to play a very up tempo, and fast paced match with TFC wasn't easy. We allowed ourselves to be stretched out of our normal formation at time and that created chances for Toronto. Still on the night, the guys were dangerous, they were creating chances and dealing with issues as they came up. I know there were a lot of tight/questionable calls on the night but they battled on and kept attacking. In the end no matter what anyone else had to say to tried to do about it, it was the players of RSL that got a deserved win.
OFF MY SOAPBOX