Real Salt Lake has been playing with four in the midfield for the last few weeks, and it's seemed to make a difference, with poor results turning into mediocre and, at times, good ones.
That's a step in the right direction. But is playing four midfielders a sustainable practice for Jeff Cassar? To answer that, let's look at that part of the roster. Let's just use a depth chart for that, and keep in mind that we're not listing every position a player could see time in — each player will appear only once.
Defensive midfielder: Kyle Beckerman, Pecka
Central midfielder: Luis Gil, Luke Mulholland, John Stertzer
Attacking midfielder: Javier Morales, Jordan Allen, Sebastian Saucedo
There's actually a remarkable amount of tactical balance here for a three-midfielder setup. It could take on a more defensive shape (Beckerman, Pecka, Stertzer), a more attacking one (Beckerman, Gil, Morales), or one that spreads wider a bit more easily (Beckerman, Allen, Morales.)
With four, it the balancing act becomes a bit more delicate. Do the three attacking midfielders need to server different roles? Can Javier Morales continue his excellent form in a setup like that? There are lots of tactical questions that would need to be answered.
However we'd answer, though, it's worth considering that maybe the squad simply isn't built with four midfielders in mind.
That seems like awfully slim pickings to me, but is that just a surface concern? If — and that's a big 'if' at this point — Cassar does continue with a four-midfielder setup, that's more than just a surface concern. One needs look no further than the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July to see how it could become a problem.
It's not a stretch to assume that Beckerman will probably be involved in that, as he has been before. There's a slim chance that Gil will be there, and a slimmer one still that Allen will play with the national team (although that's contingent on exceedingly good performances with the under-20 team at the U-20 World Cup.)
If that's the case, RSL could find themselves once again in dire straits if they're legitimately playing with four midfielders. That could be a starting lineup with Pecka, Mulholland, Stertzer, and Morales, with one midfielder available as a substitute — Sebastian Saucedo.
For me, that seals the deal on a four-man midfield this season unless RSL goes in search of players to bolster the roster. Even just one midfielder would be a help and could continue to provide the flexibility RSL needs — but as it stands, with no changes, RSL is two or three injuries away from a midfield crisis.
But would a three-man midfield work out much better? In terms of raw numbers, there's certainly something there. With that overly optimistic Gold Cup projection as above, RSL could have two midfield substitutes available, and along with that, there could be some tactical flexibility as to how to proceed.
Maybe Real Salt Lake still needs reinforcements in the midfield, but if the vision is playing in that 4-3-3, there might not be any forthcoming — and we'll just have to get used to that.
Whatever the case, if RSL is to sign a midfielder, the secondary registration window for 2015 opens on July 8 — so don't expect anything before then, even if RSL does start struggling. Of course, that's potentially meaningless if RSL and another MLS team were to trade, but that's a can of worms we're not going to open today.