Monday, May 21, 2012

BYU - RSL Friendly 5/19 2012

What a surprising result! But Coach Watkins put it into perspective after the game saying, "It's one of those things, you play a team that you should beat, and every once in a while they get lucky." That's not to say that BYU doesn't feel pretty good about (an admittedly lucky) point against RSL. I was also surprised to see James Rust and Brian Kamler, the ESPN 700 team, in the media area calling the game.

You can check out the highlights here. If you prefer video highlights, YouTube is your friend.

Instead of a full game summary, let me share some of the things that stood out to me. Before the game started, we saw La Barra ReAL march in with flags flying and drumming as they went. They kept up the songs most of the game. I hope it helped the BYU faithful see the kind of presence engaged (no, not that kind) fans can bring to a game. I was a bit bummed to see Javi and Chris Wingert in civvies, but it was worse to not see Nat at all. It was good to see a starting line-up that featured a nice mix of regular starters and guys getting some looks.

The first 15 minutes of the match really set the tone for the game. BYU seemed capable of defending the final third even if they gave up a lot of possession. The Cougars did launch a couple of counters, but RSL just soaked up the pressure and would eventually win the ball back. Several times RSL came close to getting a goal only to be denied by a superb play by a BYU defender, like a nice goal-line clearance by Will Burton of a shot by Will Johnson.

I was a little shocked at how much success BYU found down the right side of the field. It looked like they were able to turn Estridge more than a couple of times. On the other hand, Olave was normally there to clean things up as soon as the ball was crossed in. He really looked like a beast out there.

As the first half waned, Fabi played a nice assist to Will Johnson who netted the opening goal. It was something you just felt was coming with RSL's superiority. Poor shots and some nifty defending were all that had kept them off the score sheet for so long.

During the half-time break, I was entranced by Javi playing kick arond with his son. Pretty soon, Olave came out and joined the game. As the break neared the close, Sabo took a turn playing as well.

The second half was marked by a different RSL line-up, but also a good mix of players — including a trialist from New York, Adrian Cronis (not sure of the spelling on this, I got his name from Jeff Cassar as he was headed to the bus -- update, it's Andreas Chronis). I also liked seeing Sebastian Velasquez getting some time and showing pretty well. The game continued, looking much like the first half. RSL might have looked a bit more dangerous, but too many shots ended up either just wide or off the wood work.

La Barra Real seemed to lose a little steam with about 15 minutes left in the match. About the RSL also seemed to back off the pressure, as though they were content with a 1-0 lead. In the closing minutes, BYU made them pay for it with a well taken goal by David Gates, who pulled off his shirt in celebration and earned a yellow card.

As normal at these affairs, the best part came afterward, when the RSL players and coaches graciously hung around a tiny little pitch and signed autographs, posed for pictures, and talked with fans. PDL might not be the draw (or the soccer) that is MLS, but these friendlies and RSL's willingness to spend some time with the fans can only help increase the sport's visibility at all levels.

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