Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes played to a 1-1 draw last Friday. Despite what the score may infer, RSL controlled the majority of the match. With some luck on both sides each club was able to leave with a point.
Houston, we have a problem.
It is no question that RSL's offense has been sputtering to start the season. The 600 + minutes since an RSL player has scored speaks for itself. This is a concerning factoid if nothing else than for the switch in formation. In the 4-3-3 formation an extra forward is added to the pitch - when compared to the 4-4-2. One could surmise that with an extra attacker more chances and scores more goals.
This is not what it has done for the Claret-and-Cobalt as they find themselves towards the bottom of the league in offense. Real is bottom in the league - with the exception of the Montreal Impact who have only played four matches due to Champions League - in total number of shots and number (71) of shots on target (29). Even more disturbing is that RSL is at the bottom of the league in chances created per match with 5.75. For years of being an offensive juggernaut, RSL has struggled to produce in the final third.
It is true, however, that RSL has improved offensively of late. Against San Jose, RSL's offensive movement looked more smooth and calculated than in the recent past. The Claret-and-Cobalt also kept the ball better in their opponent's territory managing to complete nearly two-thirds of their passes. The opposition held RSL to seven shots on the night with nothing, yes zero shots on target. Not making the opponent's net-minder work once is something RSL is highly unaccustomed to.
Recently we have talked about the improvement that RSL has made in the offensive third but with numbers like the ones above it is hard to argue that case in regards to this match. Being only a fourth of the way through the season and still without the full attacking complement, there is room for improvement but if RSL wants to stay in playoff contention something will have to give. With a double-game week starting tomorrow, expect RSL to through everything at their opponents as they attempt to end a near record of being shutout.
Beltran, the Man of the Hour.
According to stats site Squawka, Tony Beltran was the man of the match and when you look at his performance on the night it is easy to see why.
The California native was everywhere on the pitch for RSL. Putting in equal work effort in the defense as well as the offense, Beltran showcased his workhorse attitude. Beltran was also credited with creating one of RSL's five chances on the night. A nifty cross in the 22nd second minute nearly leveled the match for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Beltran was also the best man in the defense for RSL. Winning 67 percent of duels is no easy task, especially against larger and more physical opponents. Still, Beltran managed to be the second best player in possession for the Claret-and-Cobalt after Nick Rimando. Beltran finished the match with a three-to-one retention to turnover ratio, which helped RSL return to its possession dominate ways.
If Beltran is able to sustain these kinds of numbers, RSL would have one less thing to worry about as they try to climb the standings.
Finding the summer difference makers
With injuries causing pandemonium in the ranks of RSL so far this season, the club has had to rely on some second tier players to fill in. So far they have really stood out with players like Olmes Garcia and Jordan Allen really making a difference in their own individual plays. While Allen has been more of an offensive threat, Garcia has really picked up his game across the pitch to make good runs and keep possession for the Claret-and-Cobalt. Sebastian Saucedo also made his mark against the Quakes having a complete match that impressed many.
That said, the depth of RSL is still being tested and while it could improve in some regards, the club has shown inventive ways to chance matches. Fielding players with different qualities have helped RSL change their approach match in and match out in order to keep their opponents on their feet. Even so, Cassar is going to have to work with his squad and coaching staff to pinpoint players with match changing qualities if he hopes to climb back up the standings.
In glimpses this year, RSL has shown that they are not to be written off but will need to start getting the points to prove it. In the meantime, RSL will have to continue to improve on the pitch in order to remain competitive whilst waiting for the return of its full complement.
If RSL is continue to rely on young players to be difference makers, how valuable will Craig Waibel's experience with the Claret-and-Cobalt's youth prove to be? Can RSL find success waving the youth flag?
Just one more thing to consider . . .
A recurring trend this year, this matchup suffered from atrocious refereeing. As fans know all too well that refereeing is all a matter of perception, but this match was filled with prime material to showcase terrible, terrible officiating.
The officiating was not more horrible for one side any more than the other - with the exception of the blatant off-sides Chris Wondolowski goal. Whistle, back up your throw in. Whistle, move the ball six inches to the right before taking the free-kick. Whistle, referee runs all the way down the field to have a talk with a goalie for wasting time and in return waste more time then the goalkeeper ever did. In other words, the referees lost control of the match and the respect of the players.
What can be said other than: Come on PRO, get your act together before it becomes detrimental to the league.
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 second meeting with San Jose? Share your opinions in the comments section below.