Get your ponchos! It’s going to be a wet and cold one at Rio Tinto Stadium this weekend. Should you still make the trip? Only if you don’t want to be listed as a literal “fair weather fan”. Soccer in the rain can be a beautiful thing. You should come. This is what you should watch for.
Where the game will be won for RSL:
Right smack dab in the middle. There is no way around it this week, RSL simply has to own the middle of the field. Vancouver has a talented midfield group that can feed their offensive power if given the slightest chance. RSL has to be clean and crisp with the ball and win the possession battle. Last week RSL was not clean against Portland and was lucky to not pay the price for it in a counter goal. Against Vancouver, I don’t think Miller will be as forgiving in his chances as Urutti was. Beckerman, Grabavoy, Morales, and probably Gil have to have good nights as a unit with one or two stepping up even more to get involved in the attack.
Where the game will be won for Vancouver:
Vancouver has shown itself to be a very talented home side so far this season. They’ve got a record of 2-1-1 and have played some pretty good teams in the process. Their road record of 0-1-2 is what makes me question the talent of this team. They’ve got 2 points from road trips to Chivas and New England. Teams that a “top team” should have done better against. What changes on the road for this team is their ability to create & finish chances. I think they benefit greatly from the carpet they play on in BC Place as it speeds the game up and gets the ball to their speedster, Darren Mattocks, sooner and more often. Honestly, how much water the pitch takes in this one will be a huge determining factor for Vancouver. If it’s just enough to make the ball fly around and raise the speed of play, Vancouver will greatly benefit. If it muddles the pitch down, though, RSL would gain the advantage.
Player to watch for RSL: Javier Morales
The last time we played Vancouver we sent a “reserve” squad up to BC Place and ran them off their own field. The key to that game was the play from Luis Gil at attacking mid. His ability to find pockets of space on this Vancouver side simply killed them. Vancouver has since changed coaches and tactics a bit, but the key to success still lies in our attacking mids ability to find space. Vancouver has a respectable defense but not one known to dominate games. A good attacking mid will pick them apart as they just don’t have the top-notch talent defensively. Javier needs to play like he did in Philly this game. Find space, move the ball, use his vision and set up the goals.
Player to watch for Vancouver: Darren Mattocks
Darren had a rough go last year. He only bagged 3 goals and had a single assist. So far in 2014, he’s already up to 2 goals but, more importantly, he has 3 assists. The Whitecaps and Mattocks have changed their tactical approach and are utilizing Mattocks’ speed to set up the rest of the team. If you’ve seen a Vancouver game this year, you’ll know that Darren is always looking for that slotted ball just off the side of the goal to get in behind the defense. He typically doesn’t take it to goal, though. What he does is suck the defense out of shape and then finds a trailing run. This typically is his forward partner, Kenny Miller. RSL doesn’t have the fastest of defenses. If Vancouver can get Mattocks in behind on a few occasions they should be able to find a trailing run and get some goals.
Projected starting XI for RSL:
Rimando, Wingert, Borchers, Schuler, Beltran, Grabavoy, Beckerman, Morales, Gil, Saborio, Garcia
Bench: Attinella, Balchan, Maund, Grossman, Mulholland, Plata, Sandoval
I have no clue why, but I don’t have a lot of confidence going into this game. I think it’s largely in part to the ability of Vancouver to turn an attack. They have a lot of speed through Mattocks and a clinical finisher in Miller. I want to have faith that we’ll keep the unbeaten streak alive but this feels like a perfect storm (pun intended) for RSL to lose their first game. I’ll still be there, bundled up to protect myself from the elements, but I’m nervous to say the least. I predict a 1-1 tie or even a 1-2 loss. I won’t stop believing, though. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.
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