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Real Salt Lake vs. Santa Tecla: Three things to watch

Wondering what you should be paying attention to as Real Salt Lake faces Santa Tecla? Unsure what tactical decisions should be entertained? Here's what we're thinking about today.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake's match tonight against Santa Tecla comes in the middle of a surge in form for the home side, and it can't have come at a better time.

RSL has struggled throughout the year, and they're putting things together just when playoffs are in sight, and it's feasible to make the knockout stage of CONCACAF Champions League.

What should the team be focusing on? Surely it's more than just a "get some goals" game, but at the same time, that's exactly what it is. Here's what will be keeping our attention.

Don't get sucked into a clearance-heavy game

This has easily been one of Real Salt Lake's chief problems this year. Too many times, the team has opted to clear the ball wildly up the field, losing possession and meaningful build-up in the process. As a result, matches that should have been relatively easy become relatively difficult.

Santa Tecla, in the team's last match against them, presented that problem, and RSL didn't cope well. The team flung too many balls forward ineffectually, creating a tactical incoherency that damned the team to a draw.

If the defense can, in a measured way, keep and build possession starting at the back, there's a strong opportunity to notch a win.

Take early opportunities

The best thing RSL could do to succeed in this match would be scoring early. Santa Tecla's tactical outlay involved two distinct banks of defense-focused players that clogged up build-up play. That didn't mean opportunities didn't come, but as the match progressed, they were harder to come by.

If RSL can take advantage of what comes their way, they can break up those banks, allowing greater opportunity for creativity — and a chance to really put a stamp on the match.

Involve wide players in build-up play

It can sometimes be difficult for this team to really build up through the wings, and part of that's because they're having to adjust to having wide players. But it's also a generic problem, and any good 4-3-3 involving wide forwards demands that they be fully integrated in build-up play.

With the wide players RSL has, that's not too tough to achieve, especially with players like Juan Manuel Martinez or Joao Plata. But if those players don't get involved — whether it's because the ball has been hoisted forward from the defense too regularly or because the midfield doesn't splay the ball out in their direction, it can't be the case tonight.