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RSL looking to strike balance between offense, defense against Herediano

Real Salt Lake needs a win over Herediano on Tuesday to move past the group stage in CONCACAF Champions League play. Balancing an offensive and defensive approach will be key.

George Frey

Real Salt Lake is set to battle for a chance to move out of the group stage in CONCACAF Champions League play with a match against Costa Rican side Herediano on Tuesday.

To progress, Real Salt Lake will need to win: Either a 1-0 scoreline or a scoreline in which RSL wins by two or more goals will be sufficient; anything else would see them crash out of the three-team group.

With this being the second meeting between the two sides, and with Herediano's season no longer in its early stages, RSL coach Jason Kreis's ranks will have more to draw on when considering tactical approach.

"We've seen a lot more of Herediano, we have a lot more games to draw from to show our players," Kreis said. "From a players' experience factor, they played against them. It'll be largely the same group - maybe they have one or two new players there. We'll have to hit on those, but I think the guys know what to expect now."

With RSL needing a goal, Herediano's organized defense may have their work cut out for them, but as seen in Costa Rica, chances were hard to come by.

"They are pretty sound defensively, pretty well organized tactically about how they defend," Kreis said. "They made it difficult for us to create chances against them down there, and in their dynamic and their attack, (and) they have a lot of players who can change positions. They're not always in one spot. Typically, when you do that, it's difficult for defenders to sort things out."

Unsurprisingly, RSL defender Nat Borchers is less worried about Herediano's defensive organization, focusing more on their movement and positioning in attack.

"What we saw with them when we went down there, they really countered well, and their spacing offensively was very good," Borchers said. "They were able to spread us out more than we wanted them to."

To secure a win, the squad will need to play to its strengths, Borchers said.

"I don't think we were very good with the ball, and that really causes us some trouble sometimes," he said. "We've just got to make sure that a) we're good with the ball, b) when they have the ball, we're in very, very good positions to not get opened up."

Kreis is looking for his side to turn attention away from the scoreline and toward the match action.

"We've got to play the game, focus on all the details," Kreis said. "We've got to focus on all the principles of what Real Salt Lake is about and not be so concerned with the scoreline. If we do all of those things right we keep preaching and keep practicing, we'll be fine."

Even if goals don't come earlier, midfielder Will Johnson is confident in his side's ability to push forward as the match progresses, but is keen to ensure they don't wait for the goals to arrive.

"It's a 90-minute game," Johnson said. "We've won a lot of games in the second half, and most games are won in the second half. Patience - but we also need to be a little more aggressive, knowing we have to score the goals. We'll get the tactics right and get it sorted, and we'll get ourselves the best opportunity to succeed, which is all we can do."

It's a fine balance, and Jason Kreis is looking for his squad to strike it on Tuesday.

"They've got guys out there who can strike at any given moment that can score goals and make plays," Kreis said. "It's a very difficult opponent for us - especially knowing that we have to have a particular result. It would be easier if we just said we have to win, but knowing that we have to win by a certain scoreline ... makes it a little more difficult."