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Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew: What to watch, from offside trap to midfield control

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake's match tonight against Columbus Crew is likely to put RSL's second-stringers on the center stage.

Beyond just lesser-known names and faces, there's still a great deal to watch tactically, and with that in mind, we've picked out three things you should keep your eyes peeled for.

The offside trap

Playing a high line defense against New England Revolution led to three conceded goals, and that won't sit well with RSL coach Jeff Cassar and assistant coach Tyrone Marshall. If RSL hopes to get a result — primarily a clean sheet, at this point — they'll need to ensure they're not just playing a high line for its own sake.

Quick responses when the ball is launched long over defenders will be essential, and while ideally, the midfield should be adjusting to prevent those, there is a sense that's not really going to play out. Some passes will inevitably get through, as with any system like this, and it's up to the defensive line to read those passes, step forward, and ensure an offside call is obvious.

Of course, even that doesn't always work — we see this week-in, week-out across the world of soccer. When that happens, even quicker reactions to sprint back into position are necessary.

Creative influencers

Who will be RSL's primary creative outlets in this one? Javier Morales, Joao Plata, and Burrito Martinez are almost certainly not playing in this one, leaving us wondering where the opportunities will come from.

We'll want to watch to see who's shouldering that responsibility, if anyone. If nobody is, then we'll know we have some trouble with depth on ours hands. If, instead, everyone's pitching in with regard to the attack, then things might start to look a little more shimmering.

Watch for Amass Amankona, Olmes Garcia, and perhaps Jordan Allen to serve those roles, primarily. And who knows — we must just have someone step out of the woodwork and look significantly better than we expected.

Midfield control

One thing we were able to see from Real Salt Lake's second-string group against Portland Timbers was that they're likely competent in the midfield. We'll want to firm up that assumption and ensure it's more than just our perception at play.

This is where things come down to John Stertzer and his glorious head of hair. He's a talented, intelligent player, but he went a little haywire a time or two last season. Seeing how he and others interact, making their short passes and quick releases to the flank, will tell us volumes about RSL's midfield depth.