Now that was exciting. Yes, we could focus on the very frustrating fact that this is the second time in two weeks that RSL has allowed an opponent to score twice in the second half, or even that Orlando had no business scoring said goals if Olave and Maund had played like they did from minutes 20 to 94.
However, I wasn’t as frustrated yesterday as I was excited. There were multiple occasions yesterday when Real Salt Lake’s passing made me giggle with anticipation of things to come. The second goal was a culmination of one touch passing, individual skill and recognition. Second goal aside though, there were plenty of moments in the second half where RSL had 10 to 20 passes between Beckerman, Plata, Martinez and Morales that left me salivating and with an itch to get out on the pitch just to pass the ball around. After these moments, I can honestly say that we’re back.
Yesterday, we saw what the 4-3-3 could be for RSL. We got a taste of it in Monterrey and at the RioT in midweek, but yesterday we really saw how we’d fair against the middle of the pack in MLS, and I loved it. Recall the 14th minute: Juan Manuel Martinez had three men in purple between him and the goal and was able to force himself to the end line, back heel the ball around the defender and get into the six yard box for a shot. It was beautiful, and reminds me a lot of Sebastian Velasquez at his best (Any chance we get him back from Rayo OKC?).
For a lot of last season, I would feel lucky if we created three or four chances from the run of play, but yesterday we created eight solid chances, and we didn’t even have a full side for 76 minutes! Speaking of which, I believe Cassar earns some praise for the team’s performance yesterday, good and bad. He had the team believing in themselves, even when Demar got himself thrown out early. The only downside was defensive organization in the final 10 minutes. I’m unconvinced Cassar can be blamed for both goals, but after that first goal, I felt as though the midfield should have pulled back further. Or maybe save that last substitution for even later to break any possible momentum up. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to make an 87th minute sub, why not wait three more minutes?
That awkward frustration aside however, Olave and Maund played very well together. They are definitely our best center backs right now, but I think Olave’s age is beginning to show in earnest. If we’re going to keep them healthy for 34-plus games, we need to set a frequent rotation with Glad, like we did with Carlos Salcedo two years ago. This could mean less consistency, but I think we actually have enough offensive creativity this year to compete while giving up a goal or two.
Final thought: Last year, we had to come from behind frequently just to pull out a draw (think Philadelphia or San Jose). I don’t know about you, but for me it feels like we’re a better team when we’re ahead for the whole game and then lose on some magical Disney World bull$%!+. That’s not going to happen week in and week out, just like we couldn’t consistently come from behind last year. Jeff Cassar won’t let it happen.