Everyone is going to want to talk about the end of this one. Understandably so. However, this week I’m going to try to take a bit of a chronological approach to my thoughts. It is important to review the full 90 minutes of the game, not just the first 10 and the last 10.
1. RSL came out of the gates flying.
This was, by far, the best soccer we’ve seen from the season. RSL was pressing Vancouver high, causing turnovers, and forcing those right back into dangerous positions. More than that, though, RSL was working for each other. The midfield was pushing into the attack. The forwards were dropping in on defense. The outside backs were flying up the wings. In those first 10 minutes, RSL was playing to their potential.
2. The Plata goal deserves team recognition.
Plata put in a damn good shot. Mulholland flicked on incredibly well. However, this goal came from Chris Schuler not allowing Vancouver easy exit from their defensive half. Watch the goal here. After Javi laced one from a throw, Vancouver collects and looks to get out of their half. Schuler steps up and not only wins the tackle, but puts the ball back in a dangerous area to Grabs. He feeds Wingert. Wingert puts a very good ball into Mulholland. His cheeky flick finds Plata and the little man fires to the bottom corner. This goal, though, doesn’t happen if Schuler doesn’t win that first ball or Grabavoy fights to get the ball back to Wingert.
3. More team recognition on the Saborio goal.
It’s a lot of the same on this one. Watch it here. RSL wins the ball near midfield and flies up on a counter attack. The midfielders and the outside back push up. This time, Morales finds Beltran wide. Beltran cuts back to Morales and instantly starts on a run down the wing. This causes Vancouver to get out of shape on what wasn’t really a great ball by Javi, but an effective one. It again finds Mulholland, who does well to handle the poor pass from Javi, and he heads wide to Beltran. Tony passes to Grabavoy (if it was intended for him or Saborio is a moot point) who, once again, fights off the Vancouver defenders to keep the ball and push to Saborio. His shot was absolutely ridiculous. One time curler to the top right corner – goalie had no chance. RSL is flying.
4. After the 20th minute, RSL mailed it in.
Compared to the first 20 minutes of this game, especially, a completely different RSL team showed up. Beckerman’s slicing shot in the 21st minute was really the only thing RSL had to show for the rest of the half. You could see how content the players had become. It was night and day in the midfield. The effort dropped, the players weren’t willing to move to space, there was no hunger to get in the attack.
5. This team has no killer instinct.
A goal between minute 11 and 85 for RSL would have killed this thing off. We came close on a few occasions, but that fight and hunger in the first 10 minutes wasn’t even close to being there through the rest of the game. This is a massive problem that is killing RSL this season. A lack of a killer instinct allows teams to hang with you. We’ve dropped 6 points in the dying minutes of games so far this season. RSL needs to answer to the mortal combat call – FINISH HIM!
6. The start of the second half was a warning sign of things to come.
RSL finished off the first half with just enough energy to keep the Whitecaps at bay. Vancouver hadn’t really mustered much outside of a header Rimando easily pushed over the crossbar. To start the second, though, Vancouver had their ears pinned back, so to speak. RSL was going through the motions. You could see in the first 10 that one manager had given a really inspiring halftime speech and one hadn’t.
7. The subs in this game eventually lead to the result.
What was interesting in this, though, was that Vancouver wasn’t doing it by ditching numbers in their defense. The rotations that Robinson made were like for like. He was bringing on energy in the same spots, he wasn’t dropping a defender for forward. Cassar, to be fair, really had his hands tied. There wasn’t really a player on the bench that you could say would directly answer the problem – winning back the midfield. All 3 were subs in a hope that young players would come in and spark the rest – they weren’t subs to address the overall problem.
8. The subs for RSL were the exact wrong moves.
To build on the point before, the adjustments that Cassar made were catastrophic. The most was Velasquez for Mulholland. Vancouver was already having a bit of success down Mulholland and Beltran’s wing. Dropping Mulholland and bringing on Velasquez, a player known to struggle defensively, was devastating. This didn’t come to fruition until late, but the moment Vela came on Vancouver exploited his lack of pace and defensive weakness. Cassar took a big swing by bringing Vela on – it was a whif. The same can be said, to a lesser extent, of Garcia. Stertzer was purely a time-wasting sub, so lumping him in here would be wrong.
9. Olmes Garcia has been a waste in 2014.
There is no sugar-coating it, the guy is a shadow of what we thought he was going to be. I’m really hopeful that it’s just a sophomore slump. However, when I watch the guy play this year, I keep having flashbacks of Paulo Junior. Like Paulo, Olmes relies heavily on his speed to create his chances. Teams have adjusted accordingly. Unlike Paulo, Olmes isn’t hurt and still has the burst. This is the scary part. Olmes isn’t having a setback because of his lack of pace, he’s having a setback because he seems to be lost as a player. Maybe some coaching can get him through this rough patch but all I can think about with Olmes is how Paulo turned out – a waste.
10. This was the worst game Javier Morales has played.
At least that I can remember. Javier will have rough games where his tough is slightly off, but you can always count on the guy to give you effort. That wasn’t there in this game. There were multiple occasions where he would fall (fouled or not) and just wouldn’t get up for a bit. This kills our team. The midfield relies on all 4 players working defensively so we can convert that to offense. Javi was taking plays off, walking around and was really poor with the ball when he had it. I’ve never seen him miss with as many passes as he did last night. It just wasn’t clean. That wasn’t the damaging part, though, it was his lack of heart and energy. It was very uncharacteristic and hopefully not a sign of things to come.
11. Joao Plata starting was both a great and horrible idea.
The first 10 minutes were heavily Joao influenced. Joao is a game changer. The problem? He ran out of gas pretty early. In fact, he didn’t do much in the second half that grabbed my attention. In hindsight, he might have been exactly the perfect sub in this game. It obviously completely changes the game so you can’t compare, but if RSL plays slow for as long as they did, a player like Plata is the exact sub you want. He brings energy to the attack and gives the midfield a new option. I think the better move would have been to start Garcia and Saborio with Plata off the bench.
12. Those last 10 minutes were the worst RSL has played this year.
The first 10 were the best, but the last 10 were just horrendous. RSL was committing stupid mistakes. They were signs of a tired squad. Passes weren’t crisp, runs off the ball weren’t happening, and RSL wasn’t getting out of their defensive third with any urgency. We were asking for Vancouver to score on us. That it took as long as it did was the only shocking thing. Vancouver fully deserved the goal they got. Was he offside on the first? It would appear so – but that was one of those moments where the soccer gods kinda helped a bit in serving justice.
13. All of this poor play happened, and RSL was still just seconds from a full 3 points.
I think this more talks to Vancover’s inability to take their chances, but the point remains. RSL had 30 seconds that they needed to kill of the game. That was it. 30 seconds and this awful performance would have turned from bad showing that drops points to gritty performance. It’s amazing how your perception will change based on the ultimate result. I’m of the opinion that RSL got what they deserved in this game. In fact, I’m still a bit unsure if we deserved the point. Playing well for 15-20 minutes in a 90 minute game is roughly similar to getting 20/90 on an exam. That’s 22% – a failing grade.
14. Age and fitness are becoming a concern.
RSL has given up 62.5% of their goals this year in the last 15 minutes of the game. That is an absolutely god awful stat. There is no way around it. There are a lot of things this could be tied to. One you can’t discredit is that the opposition is typically trailing at that point and thus throwing numbers forward. Still, what I see from the RSL side is that we lack the ability to finish the game off. This ties to 2 things, for me, our average age and our fitness. Key players on this team are in the latter part of their careers. This shows at the end of games. Especially with guys like Morales and Beckerman, key cogs in the middle. They run out of gas and the opposition takes advantage. Beyond those two, though, there seems to be a lack of fitness from the team overall. There aren’t runs late in the game. Guys aren’t busting their tail ends to win a tackle or get the defensive line out consistently. One thing you could count on with a Kreis team was that they would be fit. With Cassar? I’m not seeing it.
15. How RSL reacts these next 2 games will be telling of the season.
This is about as much adversity as an undefeated team can get. We’re 3-0-5. 5 draws! How can they turn those into wins? Going on the road to two teams that aren’t really dominate but decent at home will test this side. Getting 3 or more points should be the objective. RSL needs to win one of these. These will be our last games with the 3 world cup players (Saborio, Beckerman, and Rimando) so it is vital RSL utilize them to the fullest.