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The Knee Jerk: April 2022

Overreactions galore

MLS: US Open Cup-Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Another month, a slew of games, and a gamut of overreactions.

We were, for a super-duper short time (like, an hour or something if memory serves), once first in the Western Conference. We are now sitting sixth after eight games with no wins in our last four league matches.

Pessimistic Overreactions: The RSL death spiral of doom

We’re in full-on regression mode right now with two humiliations in a row. One player, NYCFC’s Castellanos, single-footedly put us at a -4 goal differential. It’s exhaustion, bedlam, and mayhem. What was a promising start to the season is now starting to resemble the fluke it really felt like deep down in those thoughts some of us didn’t want to admit existed.

The weather’s getting nicer. Concacaf Champions League is winding down. Other teams are figuring out who they are and who we are. The luck that scraped us through the first four matches has evaporated.

The evidence points to something wrong with training. This many injuries? Wildly variable individual player performances? Exhaustion? Incohesion? William of Ockham is pointing his 21st century cordless electric shaver right at the training ground.

A big, giant but

We’re still only a quarter of the way into the 2022 season, and that’s plenty of time to figure things out and construct some type of nautical or railway metaphor to explain RSL pointing and moving in the right direction. I love cycling, so let’s go with that: There remains ample opportunity to fix the flat tire and start pedaling along the right path.

And let’s give a nod back to the fluke we landed earlier and not pretend that we didn’t know this season was going to have its wild ups and downs. We have a wild ups and downs kind of coach. We are a wild ups and downs kind of team with a wild ups and downs looking roster that remains incomplete. Fingers crossed that we find our missing piece(s) this summer.

The young players stepped up early on, but it was unsustainable. We’re missing key pieces while navigating this patch of thorns. A flat was bound to happen.

Optimistic Overreactions: Rays of energizing sunshine

There is optimism to be found despite our humiliating losses. Humiliate and humility come from humble which stems from the root humus. Not hummus, which is delicious, but humus as in the organic fertile parts of soil. Humiliation can be the fertilizer that promotes strong growth. Regrowth. This dose of reality, of humility, might just be the compost that enriches our soil and leads us to prosper.

If I look to the earlier games before those two ugly matches, I’m reminded that I’ve rather enjoyed watching the product that RSL has been fielding this year. Of course I enjoyed the wins and the doings well, but I have also enjoyed watching how RSL play.

There has been a balance in our strategy: not all attack and not all defense. Attack at the right times, defend and allow possession, and work as a team with each piece playing its role. It has been fun to watch. There’s a method, a deliberate style, a guiding principle behind the product, and I find it enjoyable. I want to continue to watch (again, I’m ignoring the past two games). I want to see this system develop into identity.

We’ve looked our best this season when we’ve played a three-person back line. Our outside backs have been holding the wings across defense and attack while covering tons of ground. Our attacks have been prudent, our defending purposeful. The scaffolding is there to build again.

“Why do we fall, Bruce?”