RSL’s Defensive Week 1, and Offensive Week 2

March 17th, 2015 | by Aaron Payne

After a Week 1 matchup squaring off against the Portland Timbers, RSL showed promising signs on defense, but an offensive attack that left many people wanting, given RSL’s forward talent and formation switch. Looking at the score line from RSL’s most recent bout with the Philadelphia Union, however, it could quickly be assumed that the strength of the team had switched from one week to the next: all of a sudden, the team had a potent offense and a lackluster defense.

Against Portland, the Timbers were held to a shutout thanks to strong midfield play, implementing a defensive diamond – and generally dropping a forward into the back line for defensive strength. When the RSL defense was set, it was difficult for a Timbers team that seeks a quick offensive release to counter attack. While there were a few defensive lapses, overall the effort was very good.

RSL's defense dropping defensively.

RSL’s defense dropping defensively.

Because this forward wasn’t available for attack it was wondered how well RSL could score if they didn’t quickly move from a defensive 4-4-2 to the new 4-3-3. Part of the offensive struggles against the Timbers very well could have been the artificial surface that was being played on.

Against the Union, RSL’s performance had similarities and differences to the Portland match. While three goals were conceded, two of them were bizarre in their own way, with unfortunate bounces – one off of an attempted clearance header from Kyle Beckerman and an attempted clearance from the boot of Jámison Olave – accounting for the first and third goals. While these two goals were fluky – especially the first one – it wouldn’t be fair to not give the Union some credit. They pressured the RSL defense and put themselves in a position to take advantage if something unfortunate were to occur, which is exactly what happened with the Olave own goal. While the three conceded goals could be seen as disappointing, bearing in mind that at least two were extremely unfortunate bounces, RSL fans should be very excited about the offensive showing. The numbers across the board were up from Week 1 to Week 2. RSL attempted five more shots in week two, five more on goal, and two more crosses were completed by RSL.

On the televised broadcast, much was made of Demar Phillips entering the starting XI, and rightfully so. He seemed to be everywhere, impacting every play offensively and defensively. He showed great speed, an understanding of where to be and where his teammates were going to be, and a knack for putting the ball in dangerous places. In fact, Phillips accounted for six of the 16 crosses against the Union. Additionally, after two weeks, Phillips is second on the team in crosses, after only Javier Morales who has played every minute of the season thus far.

So what’s the takeaway from two games of the season? RSL should be just fine offensively, and it doesn’t seem like they will be giving away three goals often because of the randomness that the goals for the Union were accompanied by. Through two weeks, this team certainly has shown flaws and lapses defensively, but they could also be a very good team. We just don’t know yet for sure.

Aaron Payne

Aaron Payne

Aaron is a lifelong sports fan who also enjoys writing. It didn’t take rocket science to want to put the two together.
Aaron Payne

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