After another disappointing effort against the Timbers last week, the Vancouver Whitecaps trudge into this week desperately looking for a spark to ignite their offense, and somehow, in someway, nab them some points. They play host to a dynamic Real Salt Lake team that's coming off a 5-1 thrashing of the Colorado Rapids.
Eighty Six Forever caught up with Randal Serr of SbNation sister blog RSL Soapbox to talk about that win, Joao Plata and his impressive goal total, and whether or not RSL is gunning for top spot.
86 Forever: Tell us about that 5-1 beatdown of the Rapids last week. A one time thing, or should the Whitecaps be worried?
RSL Soapbox: I think it is safe to say that the Rapids are struggling. This isn't the first beatdown that they have suffered this season. Recently, they lost to the Galaxy 6-0. That is not to say that Real Salt Lake did not play well. They looked very dangerous and very well could have scored seven goals in that match if not for a miraculous save or two. RSL has not had this strong of a forward corps this year, and possibly ever.
They truly have five legitimate starting forwards on their roster that all have varying skill sets that are valuable in different scenarios. With Joao Plata having a fantastic season, Alvaro Saborio back, Sebastian Jaime being brought in as a designated player, and two very athletic options in Robbie Findley and Olmes Garcia, Cassar is probably struggling to figure out who should start up front.
86F: How has the emergence of Joao Plata changed this teams attack?
RSL: Plata has an incredibly efficient goal per shot rate at just under 30 percent, so for every three shots he takes he gets a goal. To me, he is the smartest player on the team when it comes to taking good shots. He is also incredibly skilled on the ball and very speedy. He will also surprise you with how he scores his goals. For example, two of his 13 goals are headers. And that is from the shortest player in the league.
So it goes without saying that he is creative and knows just when and where to be to put the ball in the net. Over the past few seasons, RSL really depended on Alvaro Saborio to score. Now there are two very consistent scoring threats with Plata's emergence.
86F: Is RSL focused on making a run up the standings, or cementing 3rd place?
RSL: I'm not sure that anyone from RSL would say this publicly, but I think they care a bit more about cementing 3rd place rather than moving up in the standings. Sure, moving higher in the standings would increase the possibilities of a CONCACAF Champions League birth, but there are other ways of getting there as well.
I'm not convinced (and I don't think RSL is either) that being in first or second place in your conference increases your chances of winning MLS Cup. It is more important to skip the wildcard game and get that much needed rest as well as to avoid the unnecessary travel. At the end of the day, if there is a possibility to go for the Supporters' Shield, they will surely gun for it.
Score prediction from RSL Soapbox: RSL 1, Vancouver 1