Winner: Damir Kreilach
It’s definitely not just about his goal, but that goal was enough to make him a winner in my book. Add in two recoveries in nice attacking positions well within the final third and he’s basically a lock.
I’m not entirely sold on Kreilach’s continued forward-playing, especially when it means Sam Johnson sits, but on the face of it, he’s performing well enough that I won’t complain. There were certainly times when Johnson would have been a better player,
Loser: Steve Clark
I typically restrict these to just RSL players, but I have to hold my hand up and say that Steve Clark was one of the losers of the night. Which, well, sounds like I thought he was bad. He wasn’t.
He makes the loser column because he worked incredibly hard, made multiple stunning saves, including from an Aaron Herrera volley from distance when he was well out of position, and his team still let him down for two goals. It was delightful, really.
Winner: RSL supporters
While it wasn’t quite the outright loudest I’ve heard Rio Tinto Stadium, but it’s probably the most jubilant I’ve heard RSL fans in five or six years. It’s easy to understand why — that second goal was of huge importance, and it was our first home playoff victory literally since 2013.
Winner: Joao Plata
Part of a double-substitution, Joao Plata came into the game and completely changed it. His near-assist for the game-winning goal — there was a deflection on the pass, hence the “near” — and that really underscores, for me, how much of a turnaround he’s made over the year. He started the season often not making the bench, was the subject of numerous trade rumors, and was generally seen as out-of-favor. Fast forward to the end of the regular season: His trade options fell through, and he had to fight his way back into contention. He’s done exactly that, and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.
Winner: Nick Rimando
After a good, if nervous, last regular season game at Rio Tinto Stadium, we were treated to one more vintage performance at home. We might not get another, given his impending retirement and given results across the playoffs, so getting one last great one is a real treat.
Winner: Marcelo Silva — and Loser: Justen Glad
This isn’t about anything Glad did. It’s about what Marcelo Silva did. He wasn’t perfect, but Silva stepped into this game and put on a masterclass in physical center back play. He towed the line perfectly, knew when to take a chance, and generally adapted extremely well to a harried game.
Winner: Jefferson Savarino
Despite losing the ball with more frequency than any other player, Jefferson Savarino was a crucial attacking influence in this game. Our wide play continues to be the heart of our tactical outlay, even with Freddy Juarez’s shifts in approach.
But beyond simply being influential, Savarino continues to be one of our players most capable of producing magic. This was his fourth game-winning goal of the year and his ninth goal of the year. They’ve all been at home, though — which leaves one hoping he can score in Seattle and finally break that road duck.