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RSL vs. Phoenix Rising FC: Four winners, four losers

It was sure a match.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Well, for the first time in quite a while, I’ve seen a match in person, and coming around here to deliver my winners and losers is taking on a very different feel this time around.

So without too much exposition to set this all up, let’s get on with it. Who were some of the winners and losers from the match?

Winner: Justen Glad, but not for his play on the field

Yeah. That.

But also, let’s talk about his play. I think Glad showed he’s a capable defensive right back. He’s not great at it, and it’s not his best position by a long shot. But you know what? Now we know that if he had to play there, he could. It wouldn’t be ideal. But it would be something.

Loser: Set piece defending

So ... RSL gave up a goal from a free kick (the ball thwacked against the post and the rebound was easily finished) and from a throw-in. I know we’ve apparently brought on a set piece coach, and maybe it’s time to have a long, hard talk with the team. I know it’s preseason, but you want to see the right patterns start to emerge. This is the wrong sort of pattern to have emerge.

Winner: Giuseppe Rossi

So, I realize now that Rossi offers something very different to our other forwards, chiefly that he’s actually really good on the ball, and he has a great creative vision. He was the assist-earner on Justin Meram’s goal, and he generally involved himself actively in play. This should be a lesson to RSL’s highest-paid player. (See below.) But really, Rossi looked every bit the part, and while for me, there are question marks around several elements — fitness, injury-proneness, and finances — I’m starting to salivate at him playing meaningful minutes with us.

Loser: Albert Rusnak

Ah, so. I know Rusnak does a lot of simple things really well. He’s a good possession player. He doesn’t lose the ball. He can occasionally create magic from set pieces.

But, here’s the thing. Giuseppe Rossi has come in and reminded me what it’s like to play with a creative player. Rusnak, in the way he’s played for Real Salt Lake through preseason, has been the furthest thing from creative. I would have deferred to a “oh, they’re focusing on defense” previously, but seeing Rossi came in was enough to wake me up.

Rusnak could be the best player on our team. It wouldn’t even be close. But he has a knack for not involving himself in goals, and with his amount the skill he possess, there’s something wrong here.

This match was more of the same, so this isn’t a “loser this match,” this is an attempt to explain what we’ve seen from him throughout preseason — and perhaps beyond that.

Now, in the interest of fairness, he had a really nice opportunity at the end of the game that Rossi created for him, and that interchange was delightful. (I realize now that I need to watch more Rossi highlights brb)

Winner: Justin Meram

Well! That goal was quite nice. I don’t remember the last time we had an RSL winger just pass the ball into the net like he did. (It probably wasn’t that long ago, but that’s not the point. He was calm. I liked it. I loved Jefferson Savarino, but, uh, that sort of finish wasn’t his specialty.) Anyway, yeah! Meram really ought to start on Saturday. Please.

Loser: Damir Kreilach

OK. I am a big fan of Damir. I really am. But he’s not an ideal forward in a system that plays the ball on the ground consistently. He was a good forward when he was consistently receiving passes over the top, in the air, that sort of thing, where his physical qualities overrode some of his natural midfield tendencies. But we’re playing him in differently now, and while that’s absolutely the right direction to be going as a team, it does have the potential to make Kreilach less useful there.

Now, further back, in the actual midfield? I’d be curious to see what he brings there. It’s been a while, you know?

Winner: Justin Portillo

OK, OK. I know you’re not happy with his play. I know we gave up three goals. I know I’m even departing from the words of a Soapbox writer (that happens a lot), which you can read later (they’re not published yet, but will be available in the morning. Since I’m the editor on them, I got to cheat and read ahead. I’m not sorry.)

So I don’t think Portillo was great in the first half, and I think in a way he fell prey to a mismatched lineup for RSL that put him under undue pressure. But in the second half, he picked things up and was the provider of some very astute passing. Was this the sort of match where we needed two defensive midfielders in the midfield without anything else? I don’t think so. But I can’t blame him for that. He is who he is.

I might go back and watch the game, though. I’m curious where the anger stemmed from. Especially in the first half, when things were more dire, I didn’t see enough from him, but I also didn’t see much from anyone else, either.

Loser: Aaron Herrera, right winger

Uh, yeah. You get it. We all get it. But when he was at right back, I really enjoyed what he brought to the table. No surprise, right? Yeah, no surprise.

Not-not-loser, but also mostly irrelevant: The player who has seemingly vanished, or who I have seen and forgotten I’ve seen

Where is Corey Baird? Did he play in any of the three streamed matches? Is he injured? Have I seen him and forgotten??