Real Salt Lake's squaring off against their long-time rivals today, and while we have been a little skeptical about the future of that rivalry in the build-up to the match, it's lent a bit more importance by the team's wavering form.
As a result, RSL, having yet to spin together two wins since the third and fourth games of the season, has a lot to play for — especially as this match is the head of a 75-percent-home-match stand.
Wondering what to watch for? We have some ideas.
Kyle Beckerman will be absent through international duty, as he's with the United States for a friendly in Germany, having played most of a friendly against the Netherlands and generally impressing.
The team's match preview shows a midfield of Luis Gil, Luke Mulholland, and Javier Morales. That goes some way toward completely skipping over the Beckerman replacement conundrum — why replace him when you can simply try something new? And maybe it's not something new, but none of those three are out-and-out defensive midfielders. Maybe — and maybe it's a stretch to assert this — it's more that the coaching staff is realizing that you can't play with a Beckerman replacement. You either play with Kyle Beckerman, or you can play with another player archetype, but you can't really have both.
Back to the 4-3-3
Is Real Salt Lake going to continue in the 4-3-3? With Sebastian Jaime and Joao Plata both available — players that ostensibly make the system work — can the team really make it function? We haven't seen that yet, but not having seen it work properly and it not working at all are two different things, and we shouldn't really conflate the two.
So does Jeff Cassar go back to the 4-3-3? On paper, it seems like the right formation for our team. But is it actually the case? We'll have to wait and see.
Real Salt Lake has, at various times this season, struggled to really absorb the pressure put against us by other teams, and while part of that is a desire to win the ball back early, another part is that we spent the better part of a decade solving that problem by playing conservatively in the midfield. Jeff Cassar's tactical approach is markedly less conservative, but it does seem a little weak at times when it comes to absorbing that pressure.
Can RSL continue to adjust to that, even without Kyle Beckerman in the team?