The Lazarus Effect
Real Salt Lake's offense has been called "stagnant," "unimpressive," and "lack-luster" among other things this season. It has been suggested that the men have not been able to click since adopting the new 4-3-3 formation. With only six goals this season, and four from set pieces, the offense of RSL has undoubtedly struggled.
The 4-3-3 formation is considered to be a more attacking option than other formations. With three forwards in the attack, it is conceivable to predict a higher percentage of goals than with only two or even one forward up top. For RSL, however, the switching of formation has not produced more goals - or more goal scoring opportunities to mention. Instead, RSL has struggled in the offensive third.
It is surprising just how jarring the formation switch has been for the Claret-and-Cobalt; no one aspect more than passing accuracy. Through six matches now, we have steadily witnessed a disturbing trend line in the statistics, take a look:
At home, down two men and chasing the lead, RSL could not connect the offensive pieces. As soon as Jeff Cassar's side went down the first man, the match turned and the Vancouver Whitecaps' go-ahead goal became inevitable.
This is not how RSL are used to playing. Frankly, it's not really how this lineup should be or expect to be playing.
Theoretically speaking, the strengths of wingers should be the defining factor in this match. Let's look at how they delivered.
Here is a distribution chart of both Jordan Allen and Olmes Garcia:
In other words, neither delivered. Combined, they managed to complete less than half (48 percent) of their passes. In addition, they created exactly three scoring chances in nearly 180 minutes between the two of them.
You cannot score goals if you don't create chances, of course.
Luis Gil, on the other hand, put in a Javier Morales-esk performance. Completing 85.7 percent of his passes, Gil surpassed Morales' 82 percent pass completion average for the season. Gil looked dominate has he ushered his teammates forward. Still, the young American international was not able to create any huge chances - something that is learned in time.
RSL did manage, however, to show life in the attack. On the night, 44 percent of their shots were on target - well above the season average of 34. The Claret-and-Cobalt also managed to create five scoring chances - at par with the season average and considerably better than the big old goose egg endured in Kansas. Real also bested their opponents completing 63 percent of their passes in the attacking third to the ‘Caps 55 percent.
Even though RSL failed to score a goal, the offense is beginning to show signs of life. The Claret-and-Cobalt was missing Morales, Joao Plata, and Sebastian Jaime of course, so the potential is there to improve when these attack-minded players are on the pitch.
But this is not the same team of old anymore. Cassar has changed not only the formation but the way they play along the Wasatch Front. While the alternations has yet to start paying dividends, signs of life are visible to those who look.
When, not if, RSL gets their offensive juggernaut clicking, the Claret-and-Cobalt will be a force to be reckoned with - not only in the league, but in the tightly contested Western Conference.
What do you think? Did you see any signs of life from the offense? How can the RSL attack improve? How does this match forebode for the future of Real Salt Lake? Do you think the offense is improving? Are there other aspects of this match that we overlooked? Share your opinions in the comments section below.