1. A look at a new Starting XI?
Real Salt Lake took to the pitch for their first (semi)competitive match fielding what could be their new Starting XI. In all there were two new faces in the starting lineup. Here is who started:
D: Beltran, Olave, Maund, Phillips
M: Beckerman, Sunny, Morales
F: Martinez, Movsisyan, Plata
While there are still some issues to be hammered out, this seems like a pretty solid lineup to field on the first day of the 2016 MLS Season and more importantly against Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The biggest name that made his debut - or as it might be called, his return - was Yura Movsisyan. Despite not seeing as much of him as both the fans and coaches would have liked - will return to this point in part number 2- it was good seeing him once again donning the Claret-and-Cobalt.
The big, lesser known name for RSL was Sunny, and he impressed on his debut. He looked strong in the midfield and great paired with Kyle Beckerman.
2. Scrimmage mentality . . . or maybe not
Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers, alike, entered the match very much with a scrimmage mentality. The chemistry seemed a bit off and the play a bit slower and it showed at times.
That said, there was a huge flair-up less than a quarter of the way through the match that saw Movsisyan and a Timber's player ejected to the bench. The referees exercised their prerogative not to flash any red cards but instead let the teams continue to play 11 v 11.
The situation went as follows. Movsisyan was the victim of a physical play by the Timbers and said as much. This led to a shoving match that was initiated by Jack McInerney, who was also told to leave the match. In all, the situation was heated but cooled swiftly as it was a preseason match.
3. The Elephant
Ok, so there has been discussion about RSL's biggest weakness going into the 2016 campaign and everyone has heard at least a little about it. Even the MLS brass have mentioned it a time or two. But let's talk about the elephant in the room: the defense.
So while this subject has been brought up time and time again, becoming akin to a dead horse, there is now an actual basis to talk about it.
In the first match of the year, the RSL defense was picked apart by the Portland Timbers. Lucas Melano scored in the first 30 seconds of the match, which we all missed due to "technical difficulties." However, after the stream had finally been established, fans were treated to the modern magic that is the replay.
The big talking point here is not only that Melano scored with what some might argue as ease, but the defense itself played a big part in this goal. So big in fact, that it was almost declared an own goal until the official ruling was it was Melano's.
This was by far the most disconcerting aspect of the match. RSL's defense simple looked amateur. This will need to be remedied before the Tigres matchup, but fear not as the defense did not let in more than that single goal.
The big defensive positive was the play of youngster Justen Glad who started to look like the cerebral defender that Craig Waibel said the club is grooming him into. So could he be the answer in central defense against Tigres?