Real Salt Lake’s second match of the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament left much for fans’ imagination to decide what the team will look like in 2014. But, hey... at least we could actually watch this one!
After a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution a few days before, RSL took on their Rocky Mountain rivals Colorado Rapids. A largely uneventful affair, the Rapids managed to be triumphant in the contest, winning 1-0. The lone goal came in the second half off a Deshorn Brown shot after sneaking in behind RSL’s central defense.
Despite there not being much action nor many offensive highlights, there were a couple things that are worth talking about concerning the attack.
Firstly, the play of newcomer Luke Mulholland fits extremely well with RSL’s system. The former Tampa Bay Rowdie has adjusted well to the style of play with the club in a rather short amount of time, and that is a great sign for everyone. Mulholland was a second half substitute, and played on the right side of the diamond. It’s clear his biggest attributes thus far are ball-carrying, forward vision, and threading balls through into dangerous areas. Add to that his ability to his a threatening shot from distance, and I believe he’s a quality upgrade over some of the midfield options the club had in 2013.
Secondly, head coach Jeff Cassar’s comments about wanting to have more numbers in the attack might not be exactly what most of us were expecting. Going forward, RSL looked very familiar -- width was provided by the outside backs via overlapping runs; the outside midfielders tucked towards the middle as they made penetrating runs; the forwards checked back for balls as the midfield advanced. There were really no more players in the penalty box during chances than there were under Jason Kreis.
Ultimately (and without getting too much into speculation), I believe the real change to tactics for RSL is how the back half of the squad selectively presses into the opponents half during an advance in order to sustain the attack longer in hopes of forcing turnovers or mistakes in the attacking third. It's about keeping balance and delivering assistance to teammates committed forward while trying to guard against potential counter attacks by not allowing gaps to form between the lines.
On an individual level, three players stuck out to me as having relatively good showings yesterday. The aforementioned Mulholland displayed his versatility and his adaptability to a new squad and system. I’d speculate he’d be making good use of his contract this year. And, even in the overly-workman-like midfield that we saw come in at the 60th minute, Mulholland shined the brightest.
Carlos Salcedo, who started the game next to Schuler, was much more reserved than he may have been in 2013, especially in high pressure moments. On a particular play against a penetrating run by Colorado’s Kamani Hill, Salcedo was both calm and resilient. What could’ve been a one-on-one with the goalkeeper turned into an isolated striker with no options. Salcedo was collected, won possession, and distributed safely forward. Another good sign for the growth of the squad.
Finally, the long-injured Rich Balchan was superb at the right back spot late in the second half. Another of the 60th minute subs, Balchan proved himself during multiple one-on-one situations, shutting down the likes of Marlon Hairston and Gabriel Torres. A bit of a wrong-footed slip-up during a cross was his only fault during the match. His contributions aid in rounding out the fullback position, which was the biggest concern for the team going into the off season.
Real Salt Lake are back at it in DDC action on Wednesday. They take on the hosts, FC Tucson, at 6:00PM MT.
Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran; Chris Schuler; Carlos Salcedo; Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman; Ned Grabavoy; Sebastian Velasquez; Javier Morales; Joao Plata; Alvaro Saborio
60th Minute Lineup
Lalo Fernandez; Rich Balchan; Nat Borchers; Aaron Maund; Abdoulie Mansally; Cole Grossman; John Stertzer; Luke Mulholland; Dylan Mares; Olmes Garcia; Devon Sandoval