Kyle Beckerman played a key role Saturday as the attacking midfielders struggled to linkup with their forwards. He played the release-valve defensive midfielder well, as usual, working the ball free to the wings on several occasions, with much better effect while Joao Plata remained on the field. Man of the Match.
Ned Grabavoy was the only attacking midfielder who really found himself enough space to be particularly dangerous. His link-up play with Plata during the first 30 minutes of the game kept LA enough off balance to give RSL a slight advantage until Plata went off with an injury.
Luke Mulholland (sub '77) Grabavoy was gassed after going end-line to end-line at full tilt all afternoon. Mulholland has shown tremendous promise in two games this season, with one goal against San Jose and another called back against LA in the season opener.
Tactics: Cassar appears to have found an attacking pair he likes in Alvaro Saborio and Plata. The combination of speed and strength has worked well so far this season. But it's their unspoken connection that seems to have made this one of the most exciting strike duos to watch so far this season. Plata's hamstring injury certainly puts that on hold for the foreseeable future.
Alvaro Saborio has not been himself the first two games of the season, but his strike partner Plata found him in the 18th minute off a set piece, standing alone. Plata sent a 30-yard cross into the box to fall at Saborio's feet, where he simply had to settle it and ping it into the back of the net. Saborio's defense was perhaps his strongest suit Saturday as he was often seen tracking back with pace 20 or 30 yards to break up plays and disrupt play through the midfield.
Joao Plata is on fire with two goals so far this season and now an assist. His 18th minute cross into the box for a waiting Saborio was perfection. Plata pulled up in the 28th minute after making what appeared to be his signature move so far this season, taking a straight over-the-top through ball off his foot and pinging it past the defender. He was finally called off in the 34th minute with a left hamstring injury.
Olmes Garcia (sub '34) maintained the same energy level as Plata, in fact adding speed to the equation after being subbed on for the Ecuadorean. But he lacks the imagination Plata uses so effectively to throw defenders off kilter in their third of the field.
The RSL brass had to be pretty psyched to see a full stadium at kickoff. The crowd seemed energized from the tifo, a large crowd-sourced poster of red and blue cards held up by the audience in the lower bowl that ringed the stadium.
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