The Missing Pieces – RSL’s Maginificent Start
by Ethan Gomberg, Salt Lake
Last night victory of Real Salt Lake (1-0-0) over the Los Angeles Galaxy (0-1-0) was a story of missing pieces. One could say that RSL came into the match understaffed. Starters Will Johnson and Nat Borchers are still sidelined with injuries.
Designated Player Alvaro Sabario and talismanic midfielder Javier Morales were on the bench when the game started. Much to the surprise of many, including himself, Sebastian Velasquez, the former Junior College player RSL picked up in the Superdraft, started.
“I just want to play 15 minutes this season.” That’s what Velasquez told the media when spoke of his passion to be on the Salt Lake club. Starting against the defending champions on the road for the first game of the season certainly was not in his plans.
But on Saturday night, Velasquez certainly showed his talent as he provided chances and gusto for the Utah side in its thrilling come-from-behind 3-1 win to begin the 2012 Major League Soccer season.
Sebastian had several chances and provided valuable defensive work on players like Landon Donovan. Velasquez said “I watched video on Friday night of Donovan, trying to figure out how best to play him”.
His most important play of the day occurred in the 73rd minute when Velasquez’s attempt at goal redirected off LA Galaxy defender Sean Franklin for an own goal.
Velasquez said of his debut
“To be honest I didn’t know that I was going to start until yesterday. Once I knew that I was going to start I focused. I was just ready.
What really gave me motivation was today listening to coach talk to us, the hunger in his face when he was telling us that we were playing LA. I kind of fed off of it so I knew I wanted to get out there and make something happen and help my teammates get a good result.
That is how the team is the team is a star and that is what we are on everyday. We defended as much as we could obviously they have a lot of talented players like [Landon] Donovan, [Edson] Buddle, [David] Beckham and luckily we got a result a 3-1 result on the road.”
Perhaps the most meaningful missing pieces for the night was when Sabario and Morales came in the game at the 67th minute for Paulo Jr and Luis Gil.
While both Gil and Paulo played admirably and created opportunities in the offense for RSL, Saborio and Morales’ insertion in the game definetly changed the dynamics of the game in RSL’s favor.
Morales scored in the 80th minute after a scramble in the box, this being the first time the MVP candidate midfielder had scored in MLS play since his horrific tackle last year that forced him to leave the club to recover for the majority of the 2011 season.
Morales’ goal pushed RSL ahead for the first time in the match. Five minutes later, fellow Argentine Fabian Espindola putted the game away with a beautiful scoring drive from the left side.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis said
“I felt like we were the team that was really controlling the tempo of the match. I know that LA had some fantastic chances to score they hit the bar and then they did score but really I felt like we were the team that was controlling the tempo so I am very pleased with everybody’s contribution not just the guys that came on in the last thirty to win the game for us.”
Also the idea of missing pieces could work for the Galaxy as well. It could not be stressed enough that LA missed the presence of defender of the year Omar Gonzalez in the middle of the defense. Galaxy’s inability to replace him showed in Carson in Saturday night.
Real Salt Lake walked into the match against Los Angeles concerned that it had too many missing pieces. Russell, Williams others, all gone. Did they do enough in the off-season to address this and prepare adquetely for the 2012 season?
One game does not make a season. But beating the defending champions 3-1 in their own previously undefeated home certainly is a good sign of things to come.