Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Jamison Olave, and Demar Phillips
This is now Real Salt Lake's first-choice defensive lineup. It's taken a bit of work to get to this point, but the return of Jamison Olave to regular play, the fitness and connection of Demar Phillips, and the assuring play Aaron Maund's come up with lately has catapulted these four to the top of the heap.
Of course, Beltran has been his usual self all season, which is no surprise. Maund is the biggest surprise, because he's been known as an error-prone defender for much of his time here. Of course, with regular minutes and regular play comes a chance to show consistency. He's done just that, and it can't have come soon enough.
Interestingly, Maund's rise has relegated Elias Vasquez to the bench, and his propensity for a good, solid clearance (too frequently at times) might see him stay there this season. But with Olave's injury-prone ways, there's a chance he could get back to regular minutes before season's end.
Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Javier Morales
Jeff Cassar has turned things around a little bit with this lineup when he placed Luke Mulholland, a more attacking midfielder by trade, alongside Kyle Beckerman, giving him a more defensive role. As a result, what we've seen is closer to the fabled double-pivot — one of the two goes forward, the other stays back — than it is to a 4-1-2-3. That's been the most impactful change we've seen, and Mulholland, while not the connective, sinewy midfielder you might normally want to see in that position, has shifted his play very nicely.
And yeah, there's Javier Morales. What can we say that hasn't already been said ad nauseam?
Joao Plata, Juan Manuel Martinez, Sebastian Jaime
Completing the lineup is this very, very good — among the best in MLS, I'd argue — trio. Plata and Martinez will share wide duty, but both are very good coming centrally, and Sebastian Jaime has started to show some excellent quality leading the line.
With Jaime, though, it's less about leading the line and more about carving out chances for himself and others. That's what we never had with Alvaro Saborio or Devon Sandoval — both players will immediately look to link play again after receiving the ball, and while that works very well when they're partnered with somebody that's right there, it works less well when the other players are further away.