Real Salt Lake has had a little bit of time off, and that might be vital considering the way we squandered our last few games before the break a bit unwisely.
We won't have Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman for this one, and, God willing, we won't have them back for a little bit after that. (What with the World Cup and all, you know.) We need to re-discover our identity and, as they so blithely say, get back to basics. But there's a modicum of truth to it: We've lacked in the basics, and that's been our downfall.
A break while the best players in the world (bar a few) ply their trade on the biggest stage in the world was probably a good thing. To take a break and see teams playing good soccer (I mean, some, at least — this has been a World Cup of upsets and strife) might be the metaphorical shot in the arm our play needed. What better to re-focus a team than this?
We, of course, have no reason to be worried in the long-term. These sorts of problems plague every team in MLS at one time or another. Maybe it's parity, maybe it's something else entirely.
Regardless, we know we need to improve, and we have a clear path to doing so. So, without further ado, I present three things we can do to improve our play and get back on our feet.
1. Don't be afraid to retain possession
We don't necessarily want to be one of those sides that retains possession without meaning; gutless retention of the ball doesn't do anyone much good. But nor does giving the ball away needlessly, which seems the direction we've slanted toward in recent weeks. If we want to counter, we should pick our moments more wisely.
2. Control the game
We don't necessarily have to maintain control over 90 minutes of action, but we can't continue to let the game just slip away from us. Part of this is down to retention, but another important piece involves knowing when to zip the ball around with pace and when to just slow things down and get the ball moving in the midfield.
3. Stop getting injured
I mean, OK, that's sort of something that goes without saying. But we've been hurt by our injuries, at times having only 18 fit players — just enough to fill the bench. That's not something that helps us with our desire to be successful. Is there an easy solution? I hope so, but until we devise some sort of horse placenta treatment (let's not, please), we just have to cope better. On a more positive note, our injuries this season have given young players more time, and even if they haven't been perfect, the time we give them now will hopefully pay dividends in the long game.