It’s a shame this game is so early in the year. With all the talent on both teams, this feels like one the could have really been a good match right before the playoffs. That said, we have to be happy that it didn’t fall while players would be gone for the World Cup.
RSL hosts Toronto FC this Saturday, March 29th, at 7:30pm at the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium. It’s arguably the best MLS game this weekend, especially considering where these two teams are perceived to be now. Sadly, for the home side, the injury bug seems to have hit hard. Luckily, though, the disciplinary committee didn’t buy the perpetual whining of the LA Galaxy. RSL will be missing Joao Plata from its typical starting XI through injury while TFC will be without Jackson as he was suspended (finally) this last weekend. Still, there will be plenty of talent on the pitch for what should be a really good game.
Where the game will be won for RSL:
Our midfield is always vital, but the key to winning this game is the connection between Javier Morales and Olmes Garcia (or Benji Lopez if you think he’ll suddenly jump up the chart). As we saw against LA, Olmes Garcia doesn’t have the same chemistry with the team as Joao Plata. Filling the diminutive shoes of Plata is surprisingly difficult. The guy busts his tail all over the pitch and, if we’re being honest, has supported the play of Morales a ton. This connection has to be existent for RSL to win.
Where the game will be won for TFC:
The spine of this TFC side has really impressed me so far this year. Leading the way is Michael Bradley. If he is given time and space, he’ll slice up the RSL midfield and defense and find the feet of Defoe. Like Robbie Keane last week, Defoe won’t need many opportunities to make it count. If TFC wants to succeed, they need to work off Bradley and push the ball through the midfield. I think the Beckerman v Bradley duel in this game is easily the most important battle for both teams.
Player to watch for RSL: Javier Morales
With Plata out, Javi has to be more mobile in this game. In the first 2 and 1/3 games, Plata and Javi were kind of sharing the duties of attacking mid. Without Plata, Morales has to step his game up. A lot of focus is going to be on the battle going on behind him (Bradley v Beckerman) and to help win that, Morales needs to find space to exploit once Kyle wins the ball. A slow transition isn’t going to work on this TFC side. The change of attack has to be with pace or TFC will have it shut down.
Player to watch for TFC: Michael Bradley
I’ve said his name more than anyone in this post and there is ample reason. He is the best american player now. No doubt in my mind. He is one of the most hard-working, no-nonsense, intelligent box-to-box midfielders I’ve ever seen. TFC needs to utilize him like they have in their first two games. Get him the ball, move off him, and repeat. If Bradley has a good game, TFC will get at least a point if not 3.
Projected Starting XI for RSL: Diamond 4-4-2
Rimando, Wingert, Schuler, Borchers, Beltran, Gil, Beckerman, Morales, Grabavoy, Garcia, Saborio
Bench: Atinella, Mansally, Salcedo, Grossman, Stertzer, Mulholland, Lopez
To me, this game has 0-0 written all over it. A lot of talent in the middle of the field with the defensive talents of each side balancing out the offensive talents. I think we see a good back and forth game, but not too many really quality chances created. If RSL is to score, I think the best bet would be via set piece. The route I see TFC scoring is Bradley quickly springing Defoe on a turnover like Keane’s goal last week. I’ll predict a 0-0 affair.