RSL Soapbox) A couple years ago the Galaxy got off to a horrible start to their season and ended up turning it around and winning MLS Cup. Any advice for RSL fans that are ready to jump off the proverbial cliff with this unusually slow start to the 2015 season?
LAG Confidential) Be patient. RSL is a winning organization, so the fans are going to feel a bit of anxiety.
As someone who covers a team in the Galaxy that traditionally gets off to slow starts, it's important to recognize the factors behind why Real Salt Lake has struggled so far this season. The fact of the matter is, with Jeff Cassar implementing a new offensive system and the team missing several key attacking weapons, RSL's play is an accurate reflection of where they should be at the moment. (It doesn't help the Western Conference is significantly tougher this year)
Once Joao Plata and Sebastian Jamie return and the team is given some time to gel with the 4-3-3 formation, that's when the results need to arrive.
RSL Soapbox) How is life after Landon Donovan and how will Steven Gerrard fill that role?
LAG Confidential) Speaking of slow starts, things haven't been so great here in LA as well. Our record is ok and the team is picking up points, but the play is leaving a lot to be desired. Landon Donovan was obviously vital, but it's the loss of Marcelo Sarvas that has really damaged the team's ability to replicate their 2014 form. This has become a year of transition for the Galaxy, with Bruce and the coaching staff throwing young talent like Jose Villarreal, Bradford Jamieson IV and SuperDraft pick Nacho Maganto into the mix while LA waits for the impending arrival of Steven Gerrard.
No one knows for sure where Gerrard will line up, though as many have pointed out his days as a two-way midfielder are probably over, so he's not expected to be a direct replacement for Sarvas. Interestingly enough, the word this morning is that 22-year old West Ham central midfielder Sebastian Lletget is set to sign with the Galaxy.
RSL Soapbox) Is Omar Gonzalez worth the DP contract he received now that you have watched him for a couple more years?
LAG Confidential) Absolutely. He's the best defender in the league, and MLS Cup champions and teams in general that succeed in this league build from the back. Omar's the complete package: Reads the game incredibly well, dominant in the air, and always a threat on set pieces. He's even gradually improving at some of the weaker parts of his game, such as his distribution.
Gonzalez had a bad turnover that led to the Rapids' equalizer last week so the fans are going to grumble about him more than usual, but there's no doubting he's worth the Designated Player tag. How many teams in this league would, if given the opportunity, snap up Omar Gonzalez? To put this in perspective, imagine Toronto FC last year with Omar Gonzalez in the back instead of Jermaine Defoe.
Questions from LAG Confidential to RSL Soapbox
LAG Confidential) Head coach Jeff Cassar has struggled to implement a new 4-3-3 system after RSL enjoyed years of success using the diamond formation. Is there a possibility Cassar reverts back to the diamond midfield if the team struggles continue?
RSL Soapbox) The 4-3-3 has been off to a slow start to say the least. The defense has overall been very solid but the offense is horrid thus far. Just before the season began, Jeff Cassar said that he wants teams to have difficulty preparing for Real Salt Lake and that he felt like teams had essentially figured out how to stymie the diamond at times. He also implied that the diamond will be a weapon going forward and that it is not going away completely. In fact, the diamond was used against New England a couple games ago (and it did not go well.)
If RSL reverts back to the diamond, it will be after they have fully figured out the 4-3-3 so that they can switch back and forth between the two formations to depending on opponents strengths and weaknesses. I don't foresee the diamond being used much if at all any time soon unless it is out of necessity due to injury or international call-ups.
LAG Confidential) Now that Javier Morales has been ruled out of the match with concussion symptoms, how will RSL cope in his absence?
RSL Soapbox) Luis Gil has filled in for Javier Morales on multiple occasions with varying degrees of success. There are times like it looks like that was the one thing that needed to happen for Gil to really take off and other times where he disappears for way too long and fans wonder when he will start to reach his potential. Gil has all the signs of being a fantastic player and excels when he is with the youth national teams. My guess is that if he was given a few games in a row to really get his form going in that position, it would start to click. As for now, he will have played in three or four positions this season and that does not provide the consistency he needs.
LAG Confidential) How worried are the fans about Real Salt Lake's overall poor form, with just two wins and seven goals in eight games?
RSL Soapbox) Real Salt Lake fans are like most fans - passionate and emotional. The form thus far has left a lot to be desired and I will be the first to admit that. I do think, however, that a lot of that poor form has to do with Joao Plata, Sebastian Jaime, and even Javier Morales at times being out due to injury. When those players get back and find their form, I am willing to bet a lot of money that RSL will be on an upward trend. The truth is that goals fix everything and the goals will come when our best forwards are back on the field.