What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
After what seemed like years, not months, we've finally got our dose of the Claret and Cobalt with a 1-0 victory over a guest-filled New York Red Bulls. But guest or not, the fight, spirit, and creativity we've come to expect from our boys was out in full force, giving us a positive view of both the newcomers and the veterans.
The new boys looked solid. Those on trial impressed (though clearly not to the same level that our veterans did) and looked like they'll be taking that battle for the final roster spots right to the wire.
We saw Terukazu Tanaka, who got forward well and got back well, but didn't communicate entirely well with the back line. While that may be down to a language barrier, it's a common theme we saw with the defensive line early on. Lance Laing, Jamaican left back, looked good as well, having many of the same attributes as Tanaka. We don't yet know who'll make the team, but it does seem like it'll be a battle. Diogo de Almeida also saw a few minutes of action, but certainly not enough to make any sort of informed decision about his ability. It's worth noting that they all made some very nice forward runs, which is of the utmost importance in our system.
But the most impressive new player? There can be only one answer: Sebastian Velasquez. We're constantly being asked to temper our expectations for him, but that's going to be difficult after a performance as strong as he had. He kept the ball well, he passed it around well, and he always looked likely to make things happen. But far from being a one-man show, he was looking to get involved with the play. If he can keep his head down and continue working, there's no reason why he can't go places in this game. Let's hope it's with us.
Don't let that overshadow the other players, though. Nico Muniz was also impressive playing on the left side of the diamond, and while Enzo Martinez didn't get heavily involved on the right side, he showed some definite promise. Enzo, I'm convinced, will be a good player for us — and probably this season. More time with the senior players will help his play, as he likely needs that unspoken connection with his teammates to really get things moving.
That connection, after all, was largely absent until the 60-minute mark, when the veterans flooded in. In the end, only Sebastian Velasquez went the full 90 minutes, and to his credit, he looked well and truly up for it. Even without that connection, the trialists largely dominated proceedings, and while they may have let a few too many chances fall in New York's lap, they mopped up well.
Oh, and that Paulo Jr. goal was something, wasn't it? Chris Wingert's great work to find Espindola, and that perfect cross for Paulo Jr. to head in for our solitary goal. Goosebumps. Just goosebumps.
I'll briefly go through the lineup to offer some analysis.
Goalkeeping: Kyle Reynish was utterly solid and helped play tick over well. He may not be as good with his feet as Nick Rimando (let's face it, it's a rare thing for a keeper to be great with his feet) but he showed good vision and good shot-stopping play. I look forward to his continuing with Real Salt Lake, and I hope that, if he gets a chance, he takes it with both hands. He's showed repeatedly that he's quite capable.
Defense: Carlos Salcedo and Leone Cruz, who seem to be battling for the fourth center back spot, lack a bit of that vital connection that a good central pairing has. It's no surprise that they looked a bit ill at ease, but both made some excellent recoveries, and for that, they should be applauded. When Chris Schuler and Jamison Olave entered the match, though, we saw a pairing that's clearly developing well, and that was great to see. I've discussed our trialist full backs above, but Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran looked formidable in their half-hour of action.
Midfield: Aside from the already mentioned bits about Sebas Velasquz, Nico Muñiz, and Enzo Martinez, it's worth noting that Yordany Alvarez, still relatively new to the club, looked generally quite solid in the position. He's looked to have learned it well, playing tactically similar to — though not as well as — the inimitable Kyle Beckerman. Once a more experienced core group — Ned Grabavoy, Luis Gil and The Beckerman — made their way onto the pitch, they simply dominated proceedings. If I'm not mistaken, they might have played together. You know, once or twice. Or something like that.
Forwards: Bonfigli perhaps didn't see as much of the ball as he'd have liked, but he showed some great attributes on the pitch. He's quick-quick-quick, that one. Alongside a more cohesive midfield, we'd get a better sense of his abilities. His partner, Cody Arnoux, looked solid on the ball and nearly had a goal at one point — inevitably, a great save denied him. He looked good on the ball and a deal quicker. Taking a chance on him and his injuries may have been a masterstroke by the Kreis-Lagerwey Axis. Time will tell, but we at least have a center forward who can fill in for Saborio when needed. That's important. Espindola and Paulo Jr. also looked quite good, but at one point, they literally ran into each other. That's how similar their thinking seems to be. I'm not sure they'd play together too often, but when they do, I'd hope we don't see too much of that.
Right, I'll talk more about some things tomorrow, but there's that for today. Now, let's all bask in the warm glowing warming glow of a win for Real Salt Lake. Olé!