Perhaps the defense was good. Maybe the opposition defense was also good. Maybe it was a tense match with a lot of back-and-forth.
Both of those first two things are true. The third, not so much. Sporting Kansas City ruled the roost until the 60th minute, when they made wholesale lineup changes, and it was mostly a defensive affair for RSL supporters. Which is fine, but some extra excitement was needed.
And, well, we got a little. It just took until the 80th minute or so. Here are a few of tonight’s winners and losers.
Winner: Chris Garcia
The big winner in my book was new signing Chris Garcia, who looked incredibly bright in the 15-minute stint he was afforded. He was quick with and without the ball, he showed some good ideas, and he generally looked like he might be able to contend early for RSL minutes.
Before that, though, he’s got to figure out how to defend, because he had some truly nightmarish moments there. (I mean, he’s super young. I get it.)
Winner: Justen Glad
So this might be a little bit of a controversial opinion, but I think Justen Glad had a pretty capable match at right back. Now, I’m still a little confused about why he was playing right back, and I don’t think he was a great attacking right back, but I think he showed well in spite of all that.
Loser: Aaron Herrera
Uh, so, Aaron Herrera as a winger is probably not the best place for him. I’m very curious about why he was played here — was it a matter of bodies and reps? Was it a chance for him to learn more attacking play? To occupy the headspace of a winger more? See, I don’t know any of this, and I’m desperately hoping that RSL coach Freddy Juarez had a plan here, or that he needed bodies, because there was apparently an RSL-Houston scrimmage going on in the field next door. (That would also explain the low levels of substitutions.)
Loser: The midfield
So I have no particular issue with any of the midfielders that played — Kyle Beckerman and Justin Portillo, really — but neither of them provided much of the way of connection to the attack. With SKC generally deploying a high-pressure system in the first half, our lack of a midfield meant we often sprayed the ball out wide, and there simply wasn’t much value in that. Once they stopped with the high pressure in their second squad (say, about minute 60 forward), it became much easier.
Loser: Exciting preseason soccer
I guess time heals all wounds, because I forgot that most preseason soccer is a bit dreadful. I’ve seen so many matches in Tucson year-after-year (although I think I’ll be taking in the Phoenix Rising FC match a week from today, and that one’s in Scottsdale) that I forget that when you’re not there — and sometimes when you are — it’s just... slow. Players are still getting ready for the season. Nobody’s pushing themselves too hard. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s just a bit of an adjustment, really.
Winner: Nedum Onuoha and Marcelo Silva
These two formed an excellent pairing, and while I wonder what that does to Justen Glad (see: “Winner: Justen Glad” above), I do think the two have showed they can perform at a high level together. They really do match each other’s high points and low points well. It’s nice, really.
Loser: Donny Toia
Donny Toia struggled. If you’re curious how much he struggled, I’ll just describe one scene for you.
Toia has collected the ball in the defense after an SKC attack. He pivots, turns, and elects a wide back pass to ... Johnny Russell. Sporting Kansas City’s Johnny Russell. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It forced David Ochoa into a magnificent save, and he did well with it, but Toia’s role in the play was headshakingly bad.
I know Toia is a good player — we saw that plenty last year — but it’s hardly the way you want to play in preseason.