It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? You can see the frustration on the players faces every time the ball flies past the net and into the crowd. You can feel the tension creep up as each chance goes begging. I’ve never known a season like this, where we’ve struggled to score goals yet created so many high quality chances that we make a team who put 5 past us the last time we met close up shop after the first 35 minutes. Houston decided they we not here to win a game early on and created a frustrating display for the RSL faithful to watch. You could say they played smart, they know we can’t score in open play with ease so they made it twice as hard to make sure we didn’t. Then they waited for the defensive error but we got lucky the Dynamo didn’t punish our lapses in concentration. So, what didn’t we learn?
Where the net is
21 shots. 85% Passing Accuracy. 67.3% Possession. 495 Passes against 238 Passes (which is an astonishing stat). 0 Shots on target.
Closure to the end of the Yura Movsisyan saga can’t come quick enough. We need the money freed up to add a striker to an attacking unit that’s got the potential to beat every team in the league.
That we need to defend for 90 minutes
Justen Glad had an interesting highlight reel this week. His second half header was another in a long line of chances that could have won us the game but he made some suspect defensive slips where quite frankly we should have been punished. Rimando twice had to come and speak with him in the first half, seemingly about his positioning on the field, but the one I want to focus on doesn’t have a video that I could find. It’s just before half time and Andrew Wenger picks up a ball on the right hand side, threads it into the centre for Manotas and, according to my notes, Glad “has his thumb up his A-Double-Dollar”. Glad found himself watching the ball and took his eye off his man, charging ahead with Manotas dropping off his shoulder and having to be picked up by Silva. If Houston has been playing a more positive game they would have had another runner wide open as Silva pulls off to mark the man Glad lost but thankfully Silva did enough to stop the ball bouncing into the back of the net.
To take advantage of our luck
Alex gave the officiating team an easy job last night with a bizarre few minutes of reckless play that gave him a chance to hit the showers before a queue formed. For a good portion of the second half we were a man up which gave Houston more reason to turtle up and conserve their position. However, 10 men is 10 men and Real Salt Lake didn’t really push the pressure hard on a depleted team until the last 5 minutes where the game was all but done. People often say that if you go looking for patterns then you’ll find them and to that I would say “Yes, but that’s because things don’t happen in a vacuum”. There’s cause an effect to everything and this is the trifecta in proving that. Against Portland, I pointed to a penalty gained by RSL that many considered soft and said that we got lucky as some officials wouldn’t give that. Then against SKC we had Plata locked in “a freaking headlock” and there was no call, which cost us the full 3 points really. Finally, we work hard again and Alex is sent off thanks to him losing his cool. This time, we can’t make it count which goes all the way around to hammer home the original point: You cannot rely on dumb luck to get you through games! Luck isn’t about handing you everything on a plate but more about giving you a clear path to your goal. You still have to run to the finish line and RSL struggled to hit that sprint this week.
VAR got off to a great start this week for MLS as we continue, as a league, to lead the way in modernising the game. I honestly think this has been a long time coming and attempt to resist this are fruitless. There’s simply too much money in this game to allow human error to be a factor anymore and as we all know, money talks
It will be interesting to see just how much it gets used this season as the officials get to grips with the new system of checking plays and honestly, it takes a lot of guts to say that your first call may be wrong and that you need to check it over. Not many jobs can you turn in a piece of work and then ask for it back because you’re worried you’ve not done it right! Either way, we’ll be hoping RSL doesn’t get bitten by the VAR 9000 when we travel to DC next week.