Monday, July 11, 2016

RSL: Revenant Salt Lake

As with RSL v. Montreal, we are all winners here.
The very end of Real Salt Lake's crunching draw/near-win against the Montreal Impact featured a nails-'n'-claws duel between Laurent Ciman and Yura Movsisyan. Nothing came of it in the end, which is to say Ciman won the duel, but that's the kind of battle that makes any game of soccer worth watching. In my notes, I recorded this as "Godzilla v. King Kong." (What? Fuck you, I'm not old!)

I put out a poll before last Saturday's evening games kicked off, one where I asked what games people would like me to watch and report on. Sadly (perhaps even, no offense?) people directed me to watch New England Revolution v. Columbus Crew SC. While that game was better than the one I chose on my own (Seattle Sounders v. Los Angeles Galaxy), and even better than my default (all Portland Timbers games, which, against the New York Red was sub-epic), it didn't pique my interest nearly as much as the 20-minute highlight reel of RSL v. Montreal. A lot happened in that one, near as I can tell: Montreal looked like the team that started the season, sharper than a Ginsu knife in the counter and capable of as many cuts, etc.

Montreal thrived on set-pieces all night – their timing on all aspects looked next-level, if only this past weekend – but they held the upper hand over the opening 60 minutes at least. As Cody pointed out on the Dangerous Balls Podcast, RSL has let in a lot of goals this season, we're talking bleak, Portland Timbers numbers. They certainly coughed up chances to Montreal, but they held. Heck, wee slip of a ginger lad, Justen Glad once stood up, Ignacio Piatti, one of MLS's leading open-field menaces.

The important thing, though, and the thing to remember, is the calm, sure, patient way RSL clawed their way back into the game. The chances piled up as the game progressed and, whether a trick of the memory or whether it just makes a better story, the chances got better. RSL equalized, obviously, and the manner of it speaks to the way that RSL's "Team First" culture still persists and defines them. What else to say about Demar Phillips' commitment to that play, followed by Joao Plata's commitment to that play, followed by Movsisyan's powerhouse-perfect penalty kick? And, after that, the whole thing ended with Movsisyan and Ciman rolling around like two over-sized fifth-graders, cussin' and scrappin' over, oh, their very livelihoods.

RSL has weapons, and that's one thing, but the will to make sure they're loaded? That's something else. It's not enough, just like it's not enough for, say, the Portland Timbers. There is one difference, though, and it's something I've seen every time I've watched RSL since, say, May: they are finding players in dangerous places – we're talking deep inside the 18, sometimes inside the 6. Credit to the opposition, they have stuffed a lot of those chances; the point here is that most teams don't get the ball in those kinds of scoring positions easily, never mind often, and with the ball on their players' feet, as opposed to a defender's. RSL is doing that. I think I counted a half dozen against DC United.

Cody was right to point out that RSL has conceded a stupid amount of goals this year. And, hell yes, that does matter, especially given where RSL is in the goals-for column (good, but not great). Still, it's a pretty positive sign that they're getting the ball to where it needs to, to the rest of the Western Conference.

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