After the crazy opening to the 2014 season, here are my 15 thoughts.
1. Nick Rimando is amazing. No, he’s better than that. He’s God-like. When you look back at the RSL history, the trade for Freddy Adu that also happened to land us Nick Rimando (who we then traded and got back… yeah it was weird) might be one of the best. Probably not as great as KB for Medhi, but it still is massive.
2. Aaron Maund, take a bow. I didn’t think the kid would even make the 18. I, admittedly, was letting his few games from last year where he struggled overshadow his stellar preseason he’s had. In this game, he made us all eat crow. Center back depth? What is this world coming to?
3. Tony Beltran has the offensive abilities of Helen Keller. His defense, by all accounts, is top-notch. On that side of the ball, he might be one of the best outside backs in the league. But when he gets the ball on his foot to go forward? It’s a nightmare.
4. If we’re being honest, RSL was very lucky to not be down a goal or three in the first 25 minutes of this game. We gave up a lot of passes in dangerous positions and let LA into our box before we put actual pressure on the ball. On another night (read later in the season when the players are more in form) we’re down early and by a few in this one.
5. LA’s offense wasn’t the only aspect of this game showing it was the first game of the season. RSL had its share as well. Sabo missing the header in the second half, for instance, was quite baffling. That is his bread and butter. 9 times out of 10 that’s in the back of the net. So it wasn’t just LA that suffered, it was a collective thing.
6. The midfield for RSL, as was posted in my pre-game thread, was vital for RSL. I thought Beckerman has a very solid game. Nothing overly spectacular but he was good in his role of clogging and redistributing.
7. The two outside diamond players struggled for RSL, I felt. Neither Grabavoy or Gil had overly good games. Neither was awful, either, but our midfield is such a focus of this team that if you aren’t in top form it shows. Gil looked particularly frustrated at being taken off and I think it tied into his struggling on the pitch.
8. At the top of the diamond – Morales had himself a fairly decent game. If this was a sign of things to come, though, we need to establish some rotation at the AM spot. Javi is going to get hacked at a lot this year and his older legs won’t recover as quickly. I was pleased with his play, but it’s something to watch. We have to find a second attacking mid (cough – Luis Gil – cough) to fill the gap.
9. Up top we had a really good showing. Especially given that it was game number 1 of the season, Sabo and Plata played well. Plata, in particular, was stellar. He was my man of the match, in fact. Before Sabo haters start to complain about his lack of presence – go watch how many defenders he pulls with him. Omar Gonzalez was constantly near him with a second defender (and sometimes third) not that far off. Plata was in one vs one situations a lot and exploited them.
10. MLS has made a push to call the 6 second rule with goalkeepers. This is going to hurt RSL. It was shown in this game on multiple occasions. Because Rimando is fearful of giving up an indirect set piece in his own box, he distributes the ball faster than he wants. This leads to players having more pressure on them than normal. If the opposing team wins it, they’re typically further up the pitch so the turnover becomes dangerous. This is exactly what happened in the first half when Keane rang his shot off the post. Nicky tries to get the ball out faster than normal. Donovan reads it. Feeds Keane and boom.
11. Jeff Cassar needs to be given a lot of credit. There isn’t much difference between he and former boss Kreis, but a few things are starting to show. The most obvious to me in this game was the more relaxed nature of the players. This lead to more creative play and more offensive prowess. The drawback on this is potential turnovers, sure, but the payoff could be substantial.
12. Further, Jeff’s subs in this game won the game. I know that Plata scored, but the Mulholland and Grossman additions turned the game. RSL was starting to take hold before they came on, but those 2 locked it up and were involved in both RSL goals (one just happened to not count for some strange reason). Major kudos to Jeff as this was an area Kreis struggled with mightily early in his coaching career.
13. The replacement refs. We all knew it was bound to happen. You can bag on the PRO refs (those that we typically have) all you want, but they’re the best in this league/country. These guys weren’t god awful, but they were far from good. The offsides call on the RSL goal and the pk were baffling decisions that, on most other nights, decide the game. MLS – pay the refs. I don’t care if you’re not directly involved (It’s PRO and the referees if you’re being specific) you have a lot of weight in the decision. Get the refs back out on the pitch. The scabs are going to ruin some games.
14. What do we take from this game? It’s going to be hard for fans to not get overly worked up. I was really pumped all of Saturday night and Sunday. Lets take a step back and realize that this was one game in 34. It was 3 big points, but it was only 3 points. I wouldn’t be surprised if we really struggled in San Jose – we tend to either play great or awful there. Fans need to temper expectations even with this result.
15. Rimando said it perfectly on social media yesterday. All the praise is great, but remember this is a team sport. There are 11 guys on the pitch, 18 on the game-day roster, the 28(ish) on the first team squad, plus the academy, and then the staff, front office, and fans as well. One of the most unusual things about this club is the selflessness that is shown from top to bottom. The team is the star. Through victory and defeat, remember that.