Wednesday’s victory over Montreal wasn’t a good performance. Still, the side walked out with three points and we learned three critical things about the team.
Why Jason Hates the Unbalanced Schedule
Montreal is terrible. Ok, that’s not fair. They aren’t a terrible MLS team. They’re a mediocre NASL team. The side resorted to cheap fouling to keep up with Real Salt Lake in ways the Wilmington Hammerheads didn’t have to during last year’s US Open Cup.
With MLS Cup being hosted by the participant with the best record, a gap in schedule strength can make a huge difference. Kreis is rightly upset that Sporting Kansas City and RSL will have their records compared at season’s end, even though SKC will have played Montreal three times to Salt Lake’s one.
While the rest of the East isn’t as bad as Montreal, there is a gap. Remember Houston (the East’s MLS Cup participant in 2011) finished behind the West’s three best teams last season.
Paulo Jr. is Stepping Up
Kreis recently revealed he’s putting all three strikers on a time share. While Paulo isn’t quite at the level of the Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio, he’s getting there. When the side earned a penalty kick against Montreal, the young Brazilian insisted on taking it. He took a great penalty, putting in a shot that Donovan Ricketts guessed right on, but still couldn’t get it.
If RSL wants to compete in the playoffs and CONCACAF next spring, the side needs a third striker that can come off the bench in every match. With Paulo, they appear to have found their man. He will just need some time to get used to playing with Espindola and Saborio.
Tanaka is a Work in Progress
RSL’s Japanese outside back may win hair competitions in the near future, but a starting spot looks unlikely this season. He clearly got better as the match wore on, but he’s not ready to start in a playoff-type match.
That may change, but if things continue, Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran (both on the last season of their contracts) will have a lot of leverage in off-season contract negotiations if the side advances in CONCACAF.