Real Salt Lake are in somewhat uneasy waters today, with one win from a long road stretch keeping a dark cloud over the team — and while it would be great to just point at a reason and fix it, it's not nearly so simple.
With that in mind, I've found three things the team can improve on ahead of tonight's match against Portland Timbers.
Cut down on individual mistakes
It's no coincidence that as we've been forced to play younger defenders, the goals scored against us has increased, too. Our at-times good play has been decimated by individual mistakes defensively, and it puts the whole team in a miserable position.
Aaron Maund, Elias Vasquez, and Abdoulie Mansally have to improve, especially if we're going to be forced to play them week-in, week-out. As third and fourth options at center back, and as a backup left back, they're reasonable — and probably among the best quality in the league. But as starters without a strong veteran presence in the middle, they simply haven't cut the mustard. There's no easy solution, though, especially with Chris Schuler and Jamison Olave still out.
Avoid unnecessary clearances
After a poor match in which Real Salt Lake couldn't quite clear the ball properly, we had a better game in that regard — we cleared the ball with frequency and power. And that's fine, but we also started defaulting to that when things got difficult, and we were left with two center backs with terribly low passing percentages.
Jeff Cassar and Craig Waibel have both re-iterated their desire to keep the ball on the ground, and that's very difficult to do when your center backs simply hoist the ball in the air whenever it comes near them.
Get excited for Burrito
We've just signed Burrito Martinez, and if things go well, that should be a real boost to this team, knowing that there's a new, high-quality player coming in. For the midfield, that's someone with great movement they can provide service to; for the forwards, it's somebody they can link up with and build play alongside.
For some, like Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval, Martinez's arrival should provoke some feeling that there's a little pressure on them, and if they want to play, they'll have to be at their best. That's the true value of competition for places, and hopefully it pays off.