SANDY UT - NOVEMBER 6: Will Johnson #8 of Real Salt Lake and Jackson Goncalves #6 of FC Dallas fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS playoff game November 6 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
My homie Denz of RSL Soapbox is always up for an exchange of three questions...so here you go!
1) What's the focus for RSL right now because it seems like San Jose might be a little bit too far to catch with 5 points and a game in had, but LA isn't a huge threat either below you. Is the feeling that RSL is locked into the 2 seed and have things been a little bit listless lately with the losing skid?
I think if you look at the table it is 5 points between RSL and San Jose and while I don't think the Supporters' Shield holds the prestige it did when teams at least played every other team twice, it would be a nice goal. Realistically it comes down to two things, finish in one of the top 3 spots in the conference (avoid the wildcard match) and win our Champions League Group.
I do think that for RSL things broke their way earlier in the year, and we know that often that balances out over the season and my hope is that we are back in balance and we can just get back to playing the game and having the results not base themselves on bad calls, bad bounces, but more on the play of the teams.
2) Alvaro Saborio seems to be as hot and cold of a forward as there is in the league. How is his form right now?
I would agree with you and a lot of RSL fans think it is that his work rate isn't nearly high enough, I on the other hand think he works hard each match based on what his role is but clearly I do think that he is a guy who takes some time in the season to get going. Traditionally he has been a player who just starts to hit form in July/August, and I think that is also the case this year.
All of that being said, he is in good form, but with him still having knee issues I don't expect that we will see him start against FC Dallas on Saturday, he went 90 minutes for Costa Rica on Wednesday in their loss to Peru, so when you combine that with travel and with RSL having a Champions League match on Tuesday. I would expect that we will see Fabian Espindola and most likely Justin Braun (maybe Paulo Jr.) up top, in fact I would be fairly surprised if he is even in the 18 man roster for the match.
3) It seems like Javier Morales has been good, but not great this season while Ferreira was able to basically come straight back into MVP form after 15 months out. Is Morales the same player he was before his injury, how is his season going and is he an injury concern as he's listed as questionable for the game?
I would agree with you that something just doesn't seem right with Javier Morales and for me I think the difference is that it seems like he rushed back to action, when he came back at the end of last year I thought it was a mistake then and I still think it is a mistake that has impacted him ever since. Now clearly the doctors cleared him to play last year and for RSL I think a big push was to help him out mentally with his recovery, but it was clear that he was tentative in how he played last year and I think that is more dangerous than playing hurt. When a player holds back it often means they are open to worse injuries because of their either deliberate or unintentional changes in how they move, how they tackle and how they respond. To start this season Javi was still hurt and only saw limited action in most of RSL's first 8 matches, just one 90 minute performance, and since then he has suffered from two things that have impacted that return to form.
First, he has picked up several minor injuries that have either kept him out of matches, or from playing at 100%. Even RSL head coach Jason Kreis said that for Javier to be at his best he has to be the fittest player on the pitch. He is right and that hasn't been the case this year. Second, several teams have simply targeted him for what we are calling Hack-a-Javi, where someone is simply kicking him in the ankles every time the ball is near him. The shame is that despite MLS's edict last year to protect the offensive playmakers from those types of tactics, after the injuries to Javi, David and Steve Zakuani, little has actually been done.
I think the fact that FC Dallas has been a lot more patient than RSL is probably due to the fact that RSL is aware they are an aging team and wanted to try to ensure that they could make big runs this year in both MLS and Champions League. I will say that since David has come back and it doesn't look like he has missed a step, now some of that could be that he simply has lifted those around him up from the depths of their rough start, but it sure makes clear that he is a very special player.
Bonus: Who's a lesser-known RSL player that could have a big impact on Saturday?
There are two that I will offer up, the first is Kwame Watston-Siriboe who will be starting at centerback for the injured Jamison Olave. He is a younger player that we signed from the Chicago Fire as a project player for C.J. Brown to work with and eventually become a bigger part of RSL's team, but injuries and suspensions have pushed him into action and while he played no minutes in MLS last year, he already has 5 starts since joining RSL. He is a big, strong, physical back who has simply stepped up and been very impressive as he adapts to the RSL back line.
Second is a guy who may be known but has struggled this year, Paulo Jr., he was expected to be a guy who pushed Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio for starting minutes this year, and the first month of the season he was one of our starting forwards but then as others got healthy and in form his minutes dropped off and eventually last month lead to him being sent out on loan. He came back to RSL a couple weeks ago, and impressed the coaching staff enough that he was back in the 18 and the forward of choice coming off the bench last weekend. He seems to have regained his confidence on and off the ball and that could be a great thing for RSL, not so much for FC Dallas, not sure if he will start or come off the bench, but when he gets on the pitch you will want to keep your eyes on him.