Real Salt Lake's defense have ahead of them one of the more difficult tasks they'll have faced this season.
It's more difficult than trying to manage a thriving Seattle Sounders forward corps when we struggled so notably this summer. It's tougher than when we faced LA Galaxy at their best most other years. Indeed, it's harder than essentially every other match we've played this season.
If RSL manages to score a goal, LA Galaxy will be attacking with everything they have. They've got a lot — and if circumstances dictate, seeing four strikers playing wouldn't be the most unusual thing in the world. If the match remains deadlocked, they'll probably try to tilt it in their favor with a goal before the match reaches extra time. One goal for either team allows the match to end, but if it's one goal from RSL, the Galaxy will be in a load of trouble.
That sounds nice to us, but if it's an early goal, RSL will have to be prepared for an onslaught of attacking options. The midfield will be forced to retreat, the defense will be forced to batten down the hatches. The forwards will be left to continue trying to push the line, as stretching play would be the only thing that allows us opportunities.
Deciding on a definitive approach will be difficult. Perhaps we should be managing our play by the various states of the game in which we find ourselves playing. We can't just bunker, and we can't just push forward with reckless abandon.
This is the most tactically difficult match we've found ourselves in this year. The two-legged playoff series changes everything. The away goals rule changes it more. Bruce Arena can come out and say it doesn't matter, but he knows as well as anybody how the disparate multiple branching matches any single goal can produce.
One goal gives us an opportunity to approach the match in multiple ways, and we'll have to decide definitively on an approach. That's something we'll have to have decided on before now, though. We need to have mapped out the possibilities. We need to know what situations dictate that we retreat, which dictate we balance our approach, and which mean we should push further forward.
Ed. note: Let's be honest. I probably wrote this because I wanted to use this photo of Nat Borchers appropriately.