"Don't panic," it would seem, should be the motto at Real Salt Lake this week, if only because there seems to be a little bit of it around the deploying of the new 4-3-3 formation.
In an interview on ESPN 700 on Wednesday, RSL technical director Craig Waibel said one match was more than it took to judge the new setup.
"I don't read too much into it," Waibel said. "It's one game. It's our first game in that formation in the league competition, not preseason. For us, we still created some scoring chances. We created a few opportunities, and realistically could have walked away a winner, a loser, or a draw. I don't read too much."
With that in mind, here are three things we think we can improve on moving into Saturday's match against Philadelphia Union.
1. Keep Luis Gil and Javier Morales further forward
We can talk about formational imbalance all we want, but until we've seen the system actually ticking and whirring — not sputtering and clearing balls with reckless abandon — we can't make fair judgments. To really get a good sense of how the shape plays out, we've got to see Luis Gil and Javier Morales playing further forward, ideally with a little more concentration in areas of the pitch rather than a wide spottiness to touch location.
If both players are given greater opportunities to play in advanced positions, we can see how the balance plays out. We can see our full backs getting more opportunities to combine with midfielders. We can see — and this is important — our forwards with opportunities to be less on-an-island in their movement and attack.
2. Don't get stuck between two minds
Too many times, Real Salt Lake looked stuck between two minds — attack with more frequency, or sit back a little more? It's never an easy decision, and it's something you take moment-by-moment, but getting caught in the middle means either you'll concede goals on the break without much help of recompense, or you'll concede goals in transition. Making distinct decisions about those moments will help create opportunities and ease the transition game.
3. Improve transitions
This section could just as easily have read "Don't clear the ball so frequently, everyone," but it's a little more than just that. Real Salt Lake's transition game was lacking, so all phases were found a little lacking as a result — counterattacking opportunities were generally snuffed out, build-up play was squashed, playing out of defense was difficult at best.
Improve those moments of transition and we'll have a much better time of things. We might even — and here's hoping — create a few more clear-cut chances and score one or two or seven of them.