When a side is struggling to score goals, it becomes easy to push for a "plan B" in attack - for most sides, this means employing a tactical approach consisting of crosses and long balls. Real Salt Lake is not particularly different in this regard, but at times, there is an overwhelming sense that it doesn't work.
After Tuesday's draw with Herediano - in which RSL attempted 24 crosses, of which seven were successful - that issue reared its ugly head once again. The questions? Is this RSL's secondary plan, and does it work?
Scatter chart: Real Salt Lake's crossing runs the gamut across points gained and doesn't appear to have any particular correlation.
A 29 percent crossing success rate is surprising: it's better than any MLS side has averaged in the league, and it's considerably better than RSL's MLS average of 17.6 percent success. In this way, it worked surprisingly well, despite the conspicuous lack of goals - but I contend that it's not working in MLS play.
The matches in which RSL have attempted the most crosses have been losses: June 23, 9/28 as San Jose defeats RSL 2-1; March 24, 4/22 as Chivas USA defeats RSL 1-0; August 18, 1/19 as RSL is dropped by FC Dallas. The biggest exception? 2/19 as RSL defeated Portland Timbers on July 7.
But diving a little deeper into the data, these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. The distribution is fairly normal, and that's almost puzzling. It would seem as if RSL's crossing success would be related to its winning, but there's no concrete evidence to support this supposition. Indeed, even accuracy conforms to this fairly normal distribution.
The big takeaway is perhaps that at times, RSL does lean toward crossing as a solution, but it doesn't appear they see it as some panacea. Could RSL sometimes use a better approach when struggling to score late on? Perhaps so. But it wouldn't appear the hyper-traditional "route one football" is particularly it.
Now, exactly why RSL's crossing success is lower than most in MLS is another question for another day — but as their approach hardly depends on it, it's clearly not the biggest issue.
RSL and crossing success
|3/10/2012||Los Angeles Galaxy||3||14||1||7.14%|
|3/17/2012||New York Red Bulls||3||11||1||9.09%|
|4/14/2012||Sporting Kansas City||0||10||2||20.00%|
|4/21/2012||San Jose Earthquakes||0||10||1||10.00%|
|5/5/2012||New England Revolution||3||11||3||27.27%|
|5/12/2012||Seattle Sounders FC||3||10||2||20.00%|
|6/20/2012||Los Angeles Galaxy||0||18||4||22.22%|
|6/23/2012||San Jose Earthquakes||0||28||9||32.14%|
|7/4/2012||Seattle Sounders FC||1||16||1||6.25%|
|7/14/2012||San Jose Earthquakes||0||9||1||11.11%|
|10/6/2012||Los Angeles Galaxy||3||9||2||22.22%|
|10/17/2012||Seattle Sounders FC||1||8||1||12.50%|