Yeah it is a bit cheesy but Real Salt Lake simply dominated the match, 200+ more passes that the Portland Timbers, a 18-5 edge in shots, a 9-0 advantage in shots on goal, and 63.4% to 36.6% domination in possession. If you watched the match you were probably a bit upset in the first half that the team seemed once again like they simply couldn't buy a goal but the second half well Alvaro Saborio was able to provide the fireworks that were missing from the 4th of July.
So in my match preview I talked about wanting to see more aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball from RSL, and boy did they answer, and it wasn't just Saborio, as 9 RSL players had shots tonight and 5 of them had shots on goal. I also think we saw something that looked ugly and will likely result in the MLS Disciplinary Committee watching some video, but after Javier Morales being fouled hard for what was probably the 10th time on the night (of course only 5 were called), there was some post foul action and all of a sudden a scrum formed at midfield as RSL players looked to put an end to the "Hack a Javi" tactic (that phase is owned by Jeremy Horton (@rsl_jeremy) who you should be following. It had that feeling that I talked about in the Chivas friendly back in 2009, that sparked RSL to a whole new level on the pitch as a team, perhaps we will see another strong run from the boys who sure looked good on Saturday.
after the jump, some specific player thoughts:
So let's start in the back with the guys who had little work to do on the defensive side of the ball tonight but did it very well, and were great on the offensive side as well. Nick Rimando had a rather easy night as he barely had to touch the ball with the Timbers getting no shots on goal, the clean sheet marks the teams 8th and the win is the 132nd of Nick's career which puts him in a tie for the number two spot in MLS history. Congrats Nick.
RSL was able to bring out their veteran backline tonight as Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, and Tony Beltran all started, and it looked a lot like the great record setting days of 2010. Wingert picked up an assist on the second Saborio goal, and both Olave and Borchers had shots as well on the night. Some really great runs and incredible work to get back into position on defense when the Timbers would try to counter, it was one of the more dominant performances I can remember seeing from our defense in a long time.
So one of the parts of the RSL form that troubled me a bit recently was the midfield and while things weren't perfect, I think we saw an incredible effort on both sides of the ball tonight. While Ned Grabavoy got the start and played well, he went down with a quick injury that cause Luis Gil to come on and join Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. It was funny that earlier today I was involved in a conversation about how I thought Luis was playing a bit more tentative on the offensive side when playing on the outside of the diamond versus playing at the point, but tonight he made some incredible runs and looked much more confident on both sides of the ball and was able to pick up a huge assist on the first goal along with Kyle Beckerman. Kyle was fighting all night long and found his way to the ball as often as he could and had 80 successful passes. Will was tough on both sides of the ball, and he made some great runs to get into the area. I thought that Will was going to find the back of the net tonight as he took 3 shots and all 3 were on goal. Javier had some moments both good and bad, but when you understand the attention and punishment that he has had to endure every match as teams simply "Hack a Javi" it is easy to see why sometimes he doesn't seem as effective as we remember. Just an impressive effort on the night, and if Chara isn't punished by the MLS it will be a damn shame, should have seen red for his tackle on Javi that caused some very heated moments late with a lot of pushing and shoving.
Then there are our forwards and while Paulo Jr. and Emiliano Bonfigli didn't score tonight, both of them made some good runs and both got involved in the offense often, it was good to see. The night however belongs to Alvaro Saborio, who found the back of the net not once, or twice, but scored the hat trick and was much more active on both sides of the ball. Even before the goal, it was clear that Sabo was working very hard and willing to help the midfield out by being available to take the ball higher up the pitch. If he isn't the MLS player of the week , and if his first goal doesn't win goal of the week, well there is no justice.
So it was an impressive overall effort by everyone in a very dominating match, I asked Jason Kreis if he finally had a home match where he could relax a bit at the end of the match, and I wish you could see the smile on his face.
This sets up a huge match next weekend as the San Jose Earthquakes who drew 0-0 with FC Dallas on Saturday, so RSL trail the Quakes by just 1 point in the battle for the top spot in the West but also in all of MLS.
OFF MY SOAPBOX