Monday, May 5, 2008

A Real World Review: May 5, 2008

A Real World Review
A Review of Week 6 for RSL
(Courtesy of Jeremy Horton, aka "I Believe in Kreis")

This Weeks Results: 4-0 Win over San Jose (Open Cup), 2-2 Draw with LAG
Record: 1-3-2
Points: 5

Key Developments: RSL plays well but still finds a way to give up points.

What's right in the Real World: Javier Morales had the breakout game a lot of us have been waiting for. His touch was sublime, he was strong on the ball despite Joey Franchino's thuggery, his crossing was pinpoint, his vision was good, and he made solid decisions. Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave continue to impress in the center of the back line and did a great job keeping Donovan and Gordon contained. Tony Beltran played with a lot of confidence in his first start, despite the mistake that led to the first LA goal, but he is an intelligent player and will learn not to be too cute that close to RSL's goal. Matias Cordoba made some nice plays in limited minutes. Dema Kovalenko looks like a great fit at defensive mid. And finally, Fabian Espindola and Kenny Deuchar have separated themselves from the pack at the forward spot - they are working well together and are finishing chances.

What's wrong in the Real World: The reserve forwards (Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan) continue to be highly disappointing. I don't have a lot of confidence in RSL's ability to get a late goal from a substitute right now. Findley continues to show poor touch and is invisible a lot, while Movsisyan's finishing is beyond bad and his lack of vision and passing is killing promising opportunities. The USOC match aside, Beckerman has had two subpar games in a row - I don't believe this team can provide a consistent 90-minute effort without him on his game. And finally - I feel like we've been saying this for four years now - RSL continue to make one or two costly mental errors each game that opponents are capitalizing on. RSL need to learn to put teams away when they have a lead, get up by enough that you can absorb a few mistakes/bad calls, or learn to not make so many of those mistakes.

A brief look at the week ahead: FC Dallas @ RSL. The lack of results have put RSL in the unenviable position of having what I would consider to be a must-win game very early in the season. Unfortunately Dallas is not the team you want to be facing in a must-win game. They are a very good technical team and will try to possess the ball - a good formula for finding success on the road. RSL will need to find the defensive bite in their midfield to limit Dallas' possession. Shutting down Kenny Cooper will also be key.

Final thoughts: While RSL have done an admirable job at addressing a lot of needs in the offseason, I still see a glaring one remaining that nobody seems to be talking about. In the two home draws this season (vs. Chicago and LA), there have been some common denominators. First, RSL dictating the play most of the time. Second, solid defense.....but here's where it starts to go downhill. Third, the inability to finish good chances. Fourth, one or two key mental mistakes, and fifth - the part I want to talk about - a player for the opponent who can make you pay for those mistakes. We saw Cuauhtemoc Blanco make RSL pay for essentially its only mistake of the match. And we saw David Beckham make RSL pay - twice - for its two big mistakes.

Every team makes mistakes - there's no perfect soccer team out there. What RSL have never had is a player who can make opponents pay for their mistakes. RSL haven't had a player who is nearly automatic on free kicks or can consistenly deliver late goals in close games when the pressure is on. In other words, RSL do not have a "go-to guy".

Perhaps in the future RSL will use their DP slot on a player like this. But in the near term, this player will likely have to emerge. My hope would be Espindola emerging as RSL's hero when a late goal is needed. But until that happens and somebody steps up, RSL will likely continue to get burned for their mistakes while allowing their opponents' mistakes to go unpunished.