Opening Day Jitters
Saturday was a special day in Sandy. With the recognition of the 2009 MLS Cup Champions, a full house, and a new season to open at Rio Tinto Stadium, there was an electric feel to the evening. The buzz was enough to affect not only the play on the field, but also the team operations off the field. My thoughts on opening day need to be prefaced by the fact that I spent the first 20 minutes of the match standing in the ticket line on the west side of Rio Tinto Stadium. Due to some travel plans I wasn't sure if I would be attending the match and did not purchase a ticket in advance of the contest. Instead, I had the privilege of mingling with the masses who were trying to pick up tickets either previously purchased or grab a few of the remaining for sale. From the murmurs of the crowd, I gathered that RSL did not mail out season tickets, but rather informed holders to simply arrive early to pick up their tickets. This led to excessive congestion that ensued, causing many to miss much of the first half. If what I heard was true, the team should really rethink this process.
About the match, it's a very similar story for RSL. The team played well as a whole for most of the match. Seattle is a solid team, who will most likely be involved in the postseason. With only a pair of scoring chances through the entire match, the Sounders capitalized on both of them. The Salt Lake defense was solid. But, to be elite, as head coach Jason Kreis requests, they can't allow such chances. Teams will pounce, much like Seattle did.
RSL controlled the tempo with dominating midfield possession. Even while switching out the pieces due to injury there didn't seem to be much of a let down. Nelson Gonzalez was a lot of fun to watch on the left flank. He's crafty on the ball through traffic, speedy on the attack, and a great crosser of the ball - as seen on the late service to Alvaro Saborio that led to the equalizing goal in extra time. Gonzalez appears to be another fantastic addition to the league's most solid midfield.
What a difference a goal makes. Before Saborio's header in the 94th minute I was ready to rant about poor finishing and wasted chances. But all of that frustration is gone with a great snap header. Add Will Johnson's fantastic diving header just after halftime and you have some feel good moments to counter balance the weight of two fatal defensive lapses.