On Sunday, Real Salt Lake secured their first three points of the 2015 season with a win over Toronto FC. The win, however, was less than convincing with the Claret-and-Cobalt with the club scoring on a last grasp offensive.
RSL now hold a 8-0-0 record against Toronto across all competitions, and there is a lost to glean from this only regular season meeting between these two sides.
It's a bird, it's a plane — no, it's the ball . . .
In the first ten minutes of the match RSL could not retain possession of the ball. Looking more like a pinball game than a soccer match, the ball kept bouncing around the field just out of the reach of the Claret-and-Cobalt. The ball was seemingly in the air more than on the ground as the home side could not win the ball for all the tea in China.
With Jamison Olave back in the fold and Chris Schuler anchoring the back line, RSL is the forerunner for most clearances, blocks, and interceptions (CBIs) in the league. The midfield and forwards, on the other hand, looks as if they could not win a ball in the air to save their lives.
Going forward with this new formation, RSL will have to be better in the air. The 4-3-3 formation requires a lot of over the top passes and crosses to score. Both of these tactics means that the ball will be in the air a lot. This means that the midfielders and strikers on the Claret-and-Cobalt will need to practice out maneuvering their opponents to win balls and press their defense.
If RSL can manage to become an aerial threat, the club can find more success in the 4-3-3 formation.
Finding RSL's trequartista(s)
In soccer, the playmaker is a vital role for any club to have. It is these players who control the flow of play and involved in scoring thanks to their vision, ball technique, and creativity.
In the modern game there are two (somewhat) distinct playmaking roles. The first is the maestro, a centrally located, free flowing playmaker - the role that Javier Morales fills for RSL. The other is a creative winger known as a trequartista.
A trequartista is a supporting striker that alternates between offensive roles and participating in build-up plays. They use their quick, agile skills to deliver killer crosses or even cutting into the 18 yard box to score themselves.
With Joao Plata out with injury, RSL is down a (very important) playmaker. Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jaime were supposed to fill these roles but they have so far fell short. Both of these wingers have been barely noticeable in RSL's three matches this season. Neither have scored and neither have any assists.
If RSL is to fully exploit what the 4-3-3 experiment offers, they will have to find a trequartista fast.
On a side note, Jaime is the supposed heir to the trequartista role for RSL. Having not found his form yet in this role, maybe it is just the word that is confusing. Maybe all it will take is Jeff Cassar to ask Jaime to become the club's enganche. Whatever the reason, Jaime will have to find his from quick if he is to retain his starting role with the club.
Squad depth makes its mark
Whether it is injury or international call-ups, RSL's reserves have gotten their chance to show their skills on the big stage. The veterans on the Claret-and-Cobalt have historically been the talking point to the club's success, but this season the reserves have taken responsibility for getting the results.
The biggest plays of the early season have been through the reserve players. Whether it was Luke Mulholland drawing a penalty or Jordan Allen scoring the match winner, the reserves have been responsible for RSL's last four points.
With all the changes abounding in Salt Lake, the reserves have proven to be the difference maker for RSL so far. If RSL is to remain successful - especially with the impending CONCACAF Gold Cup summer call-ups — the Claret-and-Cobalt reserves will be the defining factor in RSL's eighth consecutive playoff appearance.
We'd like to know what you think. Is there anything we missed? Are there other aspects of this match that we overlooked? What do you think that this match foretells about the future of Real Salt Lake? How do you think RSL did in their first match of the 2015 season?