Down but not out, RSL falls at home to counterattacking Dallas

Down but not out, RSL falls at home to counterattacking Dallas

Do you know that feeling when you're trying to finish a puzzle and you've got a handful of pieces left, a handful of holes left, and you just can't make it all fit?

That's last night. That's this season.

Last night, we saw one of the most complete attacking performances we've issued this season. We were moving the ball around with aplomb; we were finding great space out wide and moving centrally from there. Most individuals were excellent in the attack.

Along with the fine attack, we saw a generally efficient and effective defensive effort. For nigh on 90 minutes, we stopped everything coming our way. Our center backs were massive, winning header after header, tackle after tackle. But for two, three, four minutes, our defending went lax. We lost the ball high up the field, and the transition failed us. Completely and utterly.

That's the frustrating part. For the most part, we were there. On another night, maybe we would have had this. But it wasn't another night, and we didn't have this. We didn't have the mindset to start with a clean sheet. Being caught on the break hurts. Every single time, it hurts.

For those looking for a solution, I'm not sure what to say. Can you ignore 88 minutes of solid defending? Can you ignore 90 minutes of inventive attack? I can't. The puzzle is nearly solved. We've got a few pieces left, and we're just trying to slot them in.

A change in personnel? Why? Should we ignore all the good we've got? The bad parts are small; they're fixable. We just need to step up, do that, and we'll be in a better spot. Perhaps a bit more concentration in transition is all we need. Or perhaps a lot more.

Clamoring for exits, for changes, for shifts — it doesn't solve anything. You don't solve a puzzle by throwing away half the pieces, buying another puzzle, and putting them together. Will this core group of players be around forever? Hardly. They've been aging and soon, they may not fit the league anymore. But that's not what we saw last night.

A final word for two things: Refereeing and time wasting. Neither caused us to lose the match (that was our own fault), but both were frustrating beyond compare. First, the refereeing bordered on insanity: We were handed early cards for nothing, then cards suddenly disappeared from the picture. 50-50 fouls consistently went against us, bar a few exceptions. We should rightly have had a couple penalties in the box. I don't love harping on the referee, because I think that plays too much into the popular narrative that referees ruin games. But last night, Juan Guzman nearly ruined that match.

FC Dallas, too, displayed their shocking tendency to go down in a heap every time a foul was "committed," with players waving arms about as if they'd been brutalized by a bad tackle. Alas, most of the time, they were fine, and the fouls were often non-existent. It was frustrating to no end. It's not only bad to watch, but it's bad for the game. When players are genuinely and badly hurt — see the tragic Fabrice Muamba incident, for one — help is needed immediately. When referees and physiotherapists can't be certain if a player is actually hurt, that treatment is potentially delayed. For the good of the game and for the good of human lives, I wish it could be cut out.

I don't have too much else to say right now. Tuesday is do-or-die. Let's go win a match.

Oh, and on a final note, take a look at this excellent set of photos from Boz. He also took the lead photo up top. Great photos from this guy — I'd implore you to check out his others. A positive from the match!