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RSL exceeding early expectations, poised for real success

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Look back, RSL fan. Look back to December 2012.

After another disappointing exit from the playoffs we all knew that changes were coming, and that RSL would be re-working a lot of the team that we had come to love.

The transfer window opened and very quickly RSL lost 3 of our stalwarts. To be honest I think, looking back, many of us saw this coming. Value for money was not there with all three of these players and RSL needed a boost. We need young aggressive players that had something to prove and could pick up the chip that we carry as RSL fans. Team over big spending, small  market, giant killers.

Let's just be honest about how we all felt as the year began.






I'll go ahead and say it. In January I said on the WRECKING CREW PODCAST that as RSL fans we needed to buckle up and hold on. This year was going to be a rough one for us all. We needed to be ready to barely make the playoffs as we "rebuilt" and made our way through a season full of playing in-experienced and young players.

Don't act like you didn't have thoughts that included "oh crap" or similar sentiments. If you didn't, congrats, you win the fan contest. I can honestly say that I had those thoughts and I saw them expressed on every form of social media, including in articles posted on MLS websites and blogs.

All that said, I find it very interesting the amount of vitriol being spewed by fans at this point in the season.

When did expectations change?

I look back and try and think of when I realized that this season could be something special.

Well, we got our butts kicked in the pre-season, so it wasn't likely to have been then.
Through the end of May We had lost to DC, tied the Rapids once and lost once. We lost to LA, at home, while only beating perennial bottom of the table teams like Chivas and New England.

Wasn't May.

Then the Open Cup wins started rolling in. RSL began to show something and wins rolled in. Going undefeated at home, having silverware within sight. Yeah, that could have done it. Around the same time RSL started to find form and results came. Our FIRST win in Texas, first win in Canada. Wins in Portland, against Houston and Seattle, coupled with other road results ALL WHILE PLAYING YOUNG PLAYERS. Yeah, RSL fans, we're on to something here. The summer felt right. Things were coming together and all of the sudden RSL was making its way towards the US Open Cup and leading the race for the Supporters shield.

Yeah, that happened. But wait, this season was supposed to be a bust. We all said that. We all saw that coming. We had no chance.

But then again, RSL has never had a chance.

So why the outrage? Why are people calling for Jason's head? RSL currently sits in 3rd place in MLS with a serious chance at winning the supporters shield. How many of us really truly believed that was a possibility? RSL made it to the final of the US Open Cup. How many of us really expected that? RSL, with less money spent, a younger squad, serious injuries during the season, international absences, and one of the most difficult league schedules is having a great season. So why are we mad?

Yes, we probably should have won the Open Cup, but what is getting there at worth?

Many thought we were out of the running for the Supporters Shield, but here we sit, two wins away from potentially securing the shield.

As teams fall apart down the stretch, RSL are finding results and points leading up to the playoffs.

RSL are poised to have the most points they've ever earned.

RSL are in the best position they've ever been in at the end of a season.

All with what we considered to be "insufficient" to do anything with at the beginning of the season.

Expectations are bound to change during the season. As performance improved, especially the way that RSL progressed through the year, we were bound to see the potential. We were bound to hope for silverware and all the glory it comes with. Any fan worth their salt would get excited at the prospects and a bit disappointed by the reality of losing the final.

How far should that excitement and disappointment go? How much disappointment should we feel based on the expectations many of us had at the beginning of the year? My point in all of this is that I hope you are excited. I hope you are excited at the possibility that this year still holds. That you are excited that with so much less than others, RSL sit nearly at the top of the league and are in a position to add silverware to the mantle.

Be a fan. Be passionate. Be proud. But most importantly, do what this club has always espoused and hoped for. Believe.

For comparison:

RSL previous season high point totals:
2010 56 points (2nd in West, 2nd overall) 1.86 ppg (30 games)
2011 53 points (3rd in West, 3rd overall) 1.55 ppg (34 games)
2012 57 points (2nd in West, 3 way tie for 4th overall) 1.68 (34 games)
2013 52 points (2nd West, tied for 2nd overall) 1.63 ppg (32 games)
Four 50 + point seasons, the fourth coming with what many considered an insufficient roster.