There definitely was no bunkering during Saturday's game between Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders. We're also thanking Jamison Olave instead of making him the pariah, due to his second half goal via header. Thanks to that and off-season acquisition Sunday 'Sunny' Obayan scoring his first MLS goal, RSL got a hard-fought three points on the day. As a new feature, we'll be sharing some photo stories for games this season.
The sun made a nice appearance for the start of the game - the one up in the sky. A very nice start and not what you'd expect from an MLS March home opener in Utah.
Following the start of the game - the fans tried a stadium wide sponsored tifo. Doing this at the start of the game probably isn't the best thing, since the RioT crowds tend to be a bit slow to arrive. Nice try - but maybe next time wait until 15-20 minutes into the game?
The game started off with a lot of Seattle pressure, but the RSL forwards started making runs up into the Sounders final third early in the game. There was quite a bit of end-end activity throughout the game.
Joevin Jones clearly showed a lot of speed throughout the game, giving Tony Beltran and the defense pause to think frequently throughout the game with his runs offensively and defensively.
Burrito Martinez was magical as usual. I may have to try some video this season, just to capture some of his crazy dribbling skills. His defensive effort really helps the team out too and the front three seem to be doing more on that this year than last year. Let's hope it continues.
The Seattle defense managed to keep things pretty tight throughout the game, despite missing Brad Evans this week due to injury. Captain Zach Scott did a good job of organizing them and leading the charge to break-up RSL attacks.
Jay Allen put in a nice game replacing Javier Morales this week. Obviously he didn't have quite the same creative passing and distribution, but he did a nice job of moving things around. He took a number of quick runs at the Seattle defense throughout the game. I liked what I saw and it was a nice change from Luis Gil's half-hearted games last season when he was the creative midfielder.
Also starting in his first game of the MLS season for RSL was Chris Wingert. He put in a good match as well, with a few solid runs up the wing. However, he did try his Burrito imitation when taking on three defenders with a dribble in the second half. Perhaps passing or crossing would be a better choice in the future.
One of the few clear tactical fouls of the game was Zach Scott's rugby style shoulder block on Jordan Allen. It was a clear choice by Scott to prevent Allen from running straight up through the well forward Seattle defense. Allen took a few fouls through the day, but luckily not the persistent fouling he's seen in previous games.
The RSL midfield and defense did tame well-regarded newcomer Andres Ivanshitz. He was active throughout the game, but failed to make a big impact. Likewise RSL kept Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris quiet throughout the game too. With all the new pieces, they clearly need a little while to gel as a team.
One thing that was nice from the game was that both teams tried to keep playing and neither team chose to break the action up constantly with fouls. There were the usual tactical fouls, including the one just outside the box on Burrito. Wouldn't you do it too if you'd just been burned and Burrito was just about to get clear in the box?
Shortly after the free kick for the foul on Burrito, RSL got a corner kick in the 38th minute. Plata took the kick and did a nice job crossing it into the middle to Sunny Obayan.
Sunny directed a great header into the right side of the goal. It was a very nice way for him to open up his MLS scoring.
It's nice to see the team showing such great support for each other. Everyone came over to congratulate Sunny. Burrito's move was particularly nice.
In reviewing through the pictures, it was clear that there was a lot of ball movement from both teams. In particular, Plata, Burrito, and Allen really had a lot of touches and were making the Seattle defense scramble with runs up the wings.
The game had it's share of injuries and training staff delays. Luckily for RSL - nothing too serious, aside from typical head bumps and a few hard fouls. Yura almost had an inadvertent goal when Kyle Beckerman hammered a shot off of Yura's head just before halftime. If it had been a bit lower, it would've been an ironic way to re-open his RSL scoring.
It'll be nice when Yura finally does get a goal. He made a number of runs, but didn't have too many solid chances this week. Hopefully he'll continue to get more fit and give opposing teams more headaches - getting a goal would make them start to pay more attention and open it up more for Burrito, Plata, and Morales.
RSL continued to keep the pressure up in the second half. The injury to Erik Friberg may have had something to do with Seattle not having as solid possession after the first 15 minutes.
Sunny Obayan was a great pick-up for the team. It's going to be tough for the guys on the bench to push ahead of him. Hopefully he's enjoying his move to the U.S. as much of the rest of us. He seems to be a great complement to Beckerman and really good with distribution of the ball. Not Javier level passing or crosses, but a really solid and entertaining addition to the midfield.
Given the final result, there probably won't be as much complaining about substitutes this week. It'll be interesting to see how long it'll be before rookie Omar Holness gets onto the field. We'll see what continued center back acquisition rumors will come to - but hopefully if it does happen, it'll be someone that can teach Glad as well as lead the back line.
Luckily Seattle isn't the long ball team they used to be, unlike Orlando last week. Goal kicks were the main deep passes throughout the game. I would've thought Seattle would've watched the Orlando game a bit more for tactics.
As the second half went along, the game got a bit more physical. Dempsey had to expressively appeal a number of times throughout the game - but the ball swipe by Sunny wasn't a case that got Dempsey any love from the referee.
Kyle Beckerman was his usual defensive standout. He was fairly quiet throughout the game, but ironically his yellow card in the game was for the jersey pull, instead of a hard tackle.
Coach Jeff Cassar waited until late again this week to start making substitutions. After his fairly lackluster performance this week, it would be interesting to see if Olmes Garcia could have a bigger impact by coming in earlier than with ten minutes left.
Luckily this game Jamison Olave was the game-winner, instead of being the one that everyone was complaining about. His defensive game was better this week, with much better positioning and choices on defensive plays. I wonder if the turf last week was that big a thing or if Olave was still tired from the Tigres game. Luckily Seattle didn't play much of the hold and counter game. Obafemi Martins departure has left them with a gap up front with respect to speed and possession. It'll be interesting to see if Jordan Morris can grow into the shoes left behind by Martins.
Olave finally got on the end of a cross near the end of the game. A great run to catch the ball at the end line allowed Burrito to put a great looping ball back in towards the far post. Olave played it real well, not going too hard into the play. As a result, he avoided getting a foul called due to light contact with the Tyler Miller. Just a bit of ball watching going on for both sides during the play, as you can see from the picture.
Unfortunately for Miller, Olave didn't hand him a birthday gift and instead put the glancing ball into the net. Great emotion in the celebration for Olave's goal.
Devon Sandoval came in for Yura Movsisyan late in the game. No big plays and some modest hold-up play. If Devon wants more time in the game, he needs to pickup some lessons from Burrito on ball control, to make sure he keeps the ball when he gets it. Sandoval still has a unique role on the team though, as he is the one clear hold-up forward the team still has. Not a bad choice late in the game - but an added midfielder like Stertzer would have kept the middle more clogged up and might have kept Seattle pushed more into their own end.
So despite the weather not ending up as nice as it started - the game finished on a high note with RSL's first victory of the year. They still need to work on defensive improvements to get a clean sheet - something they've failed to do in their first four games this season.
On a closing note - a bit of an entertaining view that you don't catch from the other side of the video camera.
Hopefully you've enjoyed this visual recap to Saturday's game. For more photos - please see them in the RSL-Seattle game gallery over on my photo site. Watch for more photo stories throughout the year.