They did it again. Aided by an offside goal and an extra minute of stoppage time, the Goonies came from behind. Saturday’s victim was Real Salt Lake, who appeared poised to begin a two-match winning streak. Here are 10 things I noticed…
1. Another Blown Opportunity
Real Salt Lake went down early in this one, scored three to take a two goal lead, and then gave it up at the buzzer to settle for a draw. It was another frustrating night for RSL fans, who again watched their team fail to finish off a match.
It is definitely frustrating, but it’s also a long-running storyline that Salt Lake fans are used to. I think that adds to the pain and the frustration.
2. Still, 4 Pts in 2 Road Matches is Good
RSL has started this season with two brutal road matches and earned results in both. Even though Saturday’s draw left a bad taste in every RSL fan’s mouth, these first two matches were definitely a success. When you consider the players that weren’t available due to injury, this is even more impressive.
If RSL comes home and gets four points in its next two home matches, the month of March will be an astounding success for Jeff Cassar and company.
3. Javier Morales’ Back Injury
It came out Saturday that Javier Morales had missed practice all week with a back injury. It happened during James Riley’s cheap shot.
That’s bad news. Back injuries are messy, and the fact that he missed an entire week’s worth of practice means it is fairly serious. Realistically, it looks like Morales might be out for a few weeks. Historically, RSL has not been good without him. But will this time be different?
A lot depends upon Luis Gil.
4. Is Gil Ready?
Real Salt Lake desperately needs someone who can step up when Morales isn’t available. We learned in 2011 that Collen Warner wasn’t that guy. During that time, Gil looked ok, but he clearly wasn’t ready to take the mantle as the squad’s playmaker. He’s a few years older now, and he even has a national team cap. So how did he do?
Gil helped to set up goals from Luke Mulholland and Joao Plata. He isn’t the controlling playmaker that Morales is, but he does make an impact. Even if he doesn’t grow into Javi 2.0, RSL has another solution that appears to be working.
5. Platoon Solution
The combination of Gil, Mulholland, and Plata served to create plenty of chances for Jeff Cassar’s side. Back in 2011, RSL survived by relying on Gil, Warner, and Andy Williams to share creative responsibilities. Since then, Gil and Sebastian Velasquez have served as a decent patch when Morales was absent. Mulholland and Plata are quite good at those roles. Combined with Gil, its the best non-Morales midfield we’ve seen from RSL.
I think that may be a solution for now.
6. Aaron Maund Starts Again
Aaron Maund got another start for the Claret and Cobalt Saturday in relief of the still-recovering Chris Schuler. Given Carlos Salcedo’s previous troubles with physical forwards, this seemed like a wise choice for Jeff Cassar. Until Maund had to leave the match with an injury, RSL defended quite well.
There were a couple blown defensive assignments on set pieces that San Jose exploited; however, the real problems didn’t completely set in until Maund left the match. RSL’s centerback depth is impressive, but three of the five players on that list are currently injured. We’ll see if that’s still the case next week.
7. San Jose’s Red Kits
I don’t get them. If your colors are blue and black, red kits make no sense. Why have club colors if you aren’t going to follow them?
8. Excited for San Jose’s New Stadium
Every match played at Buck Shaw is a reminder that San Jose has a real soccer stadium in its near future. That’s exciting for MLS as Buck Shaw is not what you’d call a professional caliber stadium. It is more like the football stadium at my high school.
9. Set Piece Errors Strike Again
Set piece defending has plagued RSL for years, and this match was no exception. The first two goals were on official set pieces and the third was practically one given the alignment of the offense and defense. RSL needs to do more defending set pieces and stopping the bleeding. On Saturday, set piece defending cost them three goals and two points. They need to be better.
10. The Captain’s Response
Kyle Beckerman has really special moments where he puts RSL on his shoulders. His 11th minute goal was such a moment. Much of what makes Kyle special escapes the notice of casual fans, which explains why many USMNT fans were surprised when he started earning call-ups to the national team. But tonight’s leadership was evident to everyone watching the match. Thus, I thought it was worth calling out.
Category: Five Thoughts