The loss in LA was painful. A stunning hat trick from Keane and poor defense placed that game out of reach. But all was not lost; even with the loss, RSL remained at the top of the MLS tables. Points against a weakened Timbers team suffering the loss of Will Johnson, who was injured during the US Open Cup match in Rio Tinto, would stifle a potentially dangerous downward momentum — one that all but paralyzed Real this time last season. RSL went into the half with a one-goal lead but lost that and holding midfielder Yordany Alvarez — stepping in for a suspended Kyle Beckerman — to a straight red card late in the second half. All seemed lost after a goal by Kalif Alhassan was scored only 7 minutes after RSL went down to 10 men. It wasn’t until Cole Grossman, who hasn’t seen the pitch since March, came in as a late sub and slotted home a fantastic goal in stoppage time, salvaging a point on the road.
A win against the Crew was crucial — not from a points perspective, but from a momentum one. RSL was coming off another long week with many of their starters playing three matches in seven days. Soccer By Ives writer Casey Cannon called this a sure RSL win Wednesday, saying “anything is possible – except a Crew victory“. RSL came into this match and dominated from the start. There were a few dicey moments when Dominic Oduro cut through the back line but failed to make anything of it. Federico Higuain was dangerous as well, but ended up being his own worst enemy, getting a yellow card to knock him out against the Sounders next week, followed by a second yellow for good measure late in the game. Nick Rimando hardly saw any action and might as well have brought a lawn chair and an ice tea into the box with him for all the workout he got. The defense and the midfield — RSL’s normal starting rotation, with Carlos Salcedo paired with Nat Borchers in the middle — were solid, allowing plenty of room for Javi, Grabavoy and even Beckerman to take shots on the goal. Jason Kreis called it the “most complete” performance of the year, and there was hardly a missed step throughout the 4-goal shutout.
RSL needs to take that momentum into the next home match, again against the Timbers. This meeting will probably miss Will Johnson as well. As an RSL fan, this is easier for me to stomach — it’s hard to watch RSL play against Will, and he’s been a crucial part of the Timbers success this season. It shouldn’t be too much to hope for a win at home in front of the away portion of the Timbers army in the upper decks.
On a personal note, last night sucked in MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager which I’d just like to gripe about for a minute. With Higuain, Saborio and Camilo starting as my forwards, I thought I was sure to get some points. Even when Sabo was benched on Wednesday I thought, he’ll probably still play on Saturday, so I didn’t swap him with defender Jeb Brovsky from the Impact, who ended up being on this week’s dream team. Out of those three I ended up with negative one point from Higuain’s ejection. Seriously? Thank God I had the foresight to predict 180 minutes from Javier Morales and made him my captain, otherwise I wouldn’t get any points at all.