Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts on Houston at Real Salt Lake

Unfortunately, we may have seen the playoff hopes edge near to, or perhaps, go over the cliff on Saturday night. It's hard to avoid discussing Clint Mathis' outburst and subsequent ejection - a miserable display reminiscent of far too many similar scenes displayed by RSL players this season. It was akin to the Clint Mathis of old, despite his assertions to the media that he had toned it down quite a bit for this go-round in the league. Inexcusable. And more importantly, irreversible.

The outburst came in the midst of Mathis' worst stretch with the team. He has been much less effective lately. Is it the switch to the 4-3-3 (he was quite stellar for the team up to that point)? He tends to often lag behind the other two attacking players, making the formation resemble an imbalanced 4-4-2 at times. This yields a lack of numbers in the attack at key times, but helps bolster the team defensively in the midfield. I'm not sure if this is by design, or if it just fits Mathis' abilities.

But the worst part of Mathis' game has occurred in the last two weeks. In both matches he picked up an early yellow card (11th and 4th minute) on very poorly timed reckless tackles. He followed this up in each game with non-stop complaints that tested the patience of the referee, and on Saturday it finally caught up to him. I'm not sure the protocol for a player slamming the ball to the turf in frustration. I'm not surprise it's a yellow card, but was mildly surprised that it was pulled for a second yellow. Christopher Sullivan seemed to think it was a makeup for the prior ejection to Houston's Hainhault, but I think Mathis earned it based on his continued complaints to the referree.

It did appear that Findley was pulled down in the box on at least one of the three occasions that he hit the turf, but that doesn't excuse the reaction. Mathis is a veteran and should (and does) know better.

I understand that Clint was distraught and very apologetic to his teammates after the match. Hopefully this latest example will lead to the team having the self-discipline and control to avoid further situations like this. The team has potentially lost 4 points this season (all to Houston ironically) because of emotional outbursts on the field. These 4 points could mean the difference when fighting for the playoffs.

RSL currently stands at 27 points on the season, with 4 home games and 5 road games left. They will likely need 40 points and possibly 42 or 43 points to make the playoffs. Two draws and two wins at home would yield 35 points. This would mean that the team would need 5-7 road points to make the playoffs. The team has only picked up 5 road points all season on 10 road games. They would need to somehow learn how to win on the road and learn that lesson quickly. Not something you would bet on happening, but something that the team managed to do late in the season last year. Lets hope for a repeat performance.