Jaime Uribarri: Thursday night’s 3-1 final score fails to faithfully reflect what truly happened on the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real Salt Lake dominated the Houston Dynamo and played like the champions they are.
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For starters, Javier Morales is clearly one the best creative midfielder in the league. Besides countryman Guillermo Barros Schelotto, no one in MLS generates spaces, controls the rhythm of a game and sets up his teammates in front of goal as well as the Argentine playmaker.
Also, the RSL player that should’ve been called up by U.S. coach Bob Bradley is Kyle Beckerman, not Robbie Findley. Despite ending his goal-scoring drought, Findley wasted two clear one-on-one situations against Pat Onstad, a flaw that even his awe-inspiring speed can’t cover up. Meanwhile, Salt Lake’s captain was his usual dependable self, anchoring the league’s finest midfield.
Finally, Alvaro Saborío has to be the early frontrunner for Newcomer of the Year. Like all true successful forwards, the Costa Rican appeared when it really mattered and showed off the best of his repertoire with a snap shot from the edge of the box and an impressive header. Expect more good things from this guy.
Jason Saghini: Despite a 3-1 score line in favor of RSL, Ching made out better in his bid to make the 23-man roster for South Africa than Findley. Yes, Findley scored a nice goal and had a great move to get around a defender later in the game, but it’s the misses that Findley had that glared in my eyes.
There is nothing from that outing that differentiated him from Jeff Cunningham. Speed? Check. Chances created? Check. Ability to finish when opportunities arise? Nope.
Ching wasn’t extraordinary, but he impressed me on two plays specifically: 1) He climbed high for a header (that he missed) and landed hard on the ground. He got right up, though. And 2) He made a nice one-two pass with Davis for a scoring chance. Maybe a little rust showed as the pass was just ahead of Davis’s reach, but my gut tells me Landon would’ve caught up to it.
Greg Lalas: I’ve been waiting for this one. Houston have somehow earned a couple of wins despite not having more than a few regular starters (Ching, Cameron, Robinson, Landin). Kudos for that.
But you just knew the wheels were going to come off sooner or later. Sooner came on Thursday.
Granted, RSL looked awesome. Javier Morales has all the tools of a brilliant #10—can anyone say “naturalization”?—and the Williams-Beckerman-Johnson trio is as good a midfield as you’ll find in MLS.
But still, Houston looked out of their depth on Thursday night. Which they were, considering all the talent that has visited the doctor’s office more often than the training ground. Now, we’ll see what reserves they can find to power through this stretch. After all, this is the mighty Dynamo we’re talking about.