Bunker like they’ve ... bunkered before
There have been a few memorable instances of Real Salt Lake bunkering down to get a result, and certainly the most effective of those came with Jason Kreis as RSL’s coach. Remember the 2011 match against Seattle Sounders in Seattle? We bunkered and only gave up two goals after holding a 3-0 lead. On second thought, that’s probably not the most effective example.
Here’s what RSL’s Luke Mulholland told reporters about this game last week:
I think next week you solely concentrate on our game and I think it's up to the coaches to keep one eye on the other results whether a tie or a win is going to be best for us. We'll leave that up to them and listen to the instructions and we'll just concentrate on doing our thing on the field.
That’s not exactly “we’ll play to win regardless” talk from Mulholland, and it makes that strategy a very clear one the team may opt to take. We’ll see, right?
Look for counterattacking opportunities
Too often lately, Real Salt Lake slows down the game when they have the ball, and that makes counterattacking play difficult. It’s something they didn’t particularly struggle with in the first half of the season, so you know the potential has to be there.
One key might be ensuring that Chris Schuler plays at the back. His knack for a long pass out of the back to a winger is a particularly unusual development — it’s not something I actively recall him having opportunities to do, outside of his play with Real Monarchs. This 4-3-3 business is not something he’s played in much.
But he’s shown that skill quite well, and it’s the sort of thing that unlocks defenses for a counterattack — find Burrito Martinez or Joao Plata in an advanced position, and the attack can stream forward. That gives Yura Movsisyan greater opportunities in the attack, too — we can’t simply lump a ball forward to a single target forward anymore; it’s not like the days of Alvaro Saborio, when he could hold up the ball for another forward who was right there with him.
Don’t fall asleep on Lodeiro ... or at all
This one seems obvious, but Real Salt Lake’s ability to fall asleep at basically the worst possible times has been the story of the season. They’ve made their own luck, certainly, and boy, has it been bad.
Nicolas Lodeiro has been one of the best mid-year signings the league has seen (I’d argue Burrito Martinez, if RSL had been able to sneak into the playoffs last year, would be in that conversation, too), and paying him attention should be a top priority. If it’s not? It’s lights-out for Real Salt Lake.
Seriously — they’ve been a fantastic team over the last six matchdays, and we’ve been anything but. Real Salt Lake will have its hands full with confident attacking players. If the team can’t contain Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and the rest of that rag-tag bunch, we’re going to have a really, really bad time.