Another week, another set of things to look out for Real Salt Lake ahead of an important matchup, this time against LA Galaxy.
We're at a point where every match seems like a must-win — the nature of the game and MLS, I suppose — but our questions from last week aren't necessarily resolved after a somewhat convincing win over New England Revolution.
Last week, we watched for ...
Will Olmes Garcia get a goal?
Sadly, no. We'll be watching for that again this week. Of course, he has to play to score, and that stopped him this week.
Will we escape without a red card?
Yes. Actually, we never really looked particularly close to it. That was reassuring, exciting and really kind of fun.
Who starts in the midfield?
What was that about no Kyle Beckerman? Yeah, there he was, and how much better did we look for it? The answer is something in the range of "multitudes" to "exponentially."
Anyway, I was worried about last week. I'll not pretend I wasn't. John Stertzer hadn't showed really well, Luis Gil had been a little spotty, and Cole Grossman is certainly no Kyle Beckerman, for all his good qualities. But really, John Stertzer was great, Gil was consistent, Beckerman returned, and Grossman came into the match and performed well in his 20 minutes out there.
This week, let's watch for ...
How well do we defend the counter?
We don't have a particularly pace-ridden player in the back line, but that hasn't made a difference, really, against LA Galaxy in the last two years. We'll probably continue to play a high-line defense, seeing as it's a really important part of how we play. This gives us a little bit of risk back there against a good counterattacking team, but I have every confidence that we'll not be hurt too much from it.
Of course, last time we played LA Galaxy, Landon Donovan hadn't had a fire lit under him by being snubbed for a certain international tournament.
If we take a lead, can we continue to push forward?
If there's one thing that's hurt us this season, it's abandoning our preferred method of play in exchange for a containment strategy. The best we've done in that regard? Last match. We were ahead and in the late stages, instead of changing our approach, we continued to play as we know best. It paid dividends, and it would behoove us to continue to play like that.
Who starts up top?
It wouldn't be a match preview without a look at our forwards, and it's becoming increasingly easy to predict our starting set - given we've had injuries to contend with and some clear partnerships developing. After Devon Sandoval's workman-like performance and Joao Plata's generally exciting and creative play last week, I'd expect to see them paired again. Will Robbie find his way to the bench after injury concerns? Will Olmes Garcia enter the match? Will we find consistent goalscoring from a non-Plata forward at any point? Will I stop speaking in the form of questions? Probably not. Oh, wait.