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What to watch for as Real Salt Lake looks to firm up the 4-3-3

Wondering what you should be watching for in today's match against New England Revolution?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake will be hoping for more than just a point from tonight's match — "three points or bust," I'd imagine — but more acutely, they should be hoping to create a steady stream of chances from the match against New England Revolution.

Creating chances

Salt Lake's biggest issue this season has been in creating chances — the team is at the bottom of the league standings in chances created per match. This isn't to say that results have necessarily been bad this season, but when you create fewer chances, every chance begins to matter more. Your finishing can be superb or splendorous, but if you can't create chances regularly, it'll come down a bit to luck. Nobody wants that.

A saner midfield posture

The midfield will inevitably be getting forward, and rightfully so. This is a tactical approach that demands a lot from players, and it requires that your midfielders be involved on both sides of the ball. This is true of all three, including the deepest-lying player. But when Real Salt Lake loses the ball, the midfield must adopt a posture focused on winning it back again further up the field — this is a key factor in nearly all successful attacking strategies.

This does, however, inevitably open up some space between the midfield and the defenders, so it's hard to say what the best approach is to avoid that problem. Maybe it's as simple as tucking the fullbacks inside a little more with the wide forwards dropping into wider positions — but that comes with its own set of risks and rewards, with the biggest problem being that it's harder to get those speedy players into counterattacking moments.

Combine with fullbacks

One effect of the system so far has been that the full backs have been significantly less involved in play. Tony Beltran was regularly pulling in 30-40 passes per match, but now he's hovering just over 20 per game (with the 3-3 draw against Philadelphia an exception.) It's not that he's dropped in quality or is somehow a worse player, but rather that play hasn't involved the wide players in non-attacking positions.

So while Demar Phillips or Abdoulie Mansally might be enjoying the run of play a bit more by bursting into the attack with greater frequency, Beltran is left in more defensive, reserved positions. This is fine — that could be intentional — but our best play historically comes when we have combination play out wide that opens space further up the field.

This isn't a diamond problem, either. While there was inevitably a little more opportunity for someone like Ned Grabavoy to combine with the full backs, those opportunities should exist. They just might have to be manufactured a little more than they're appearing naturally in the system.