Real Salt Lake left Monterrey limping in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. Conceding two goals was not in game plan, but happened none the less. As both the club and its fans are left pondering what could have been, we are breaking down some of the things that went wrong for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
The finishing touch . . . Or, um, the lack thereof
The Claret-and-Cobalt were left wanting in their offense on Wednesday. Another inch or two this way or that it could have produced a very different outcome but that is not the way history will have it remembered in a match that left many wondering, "Where was the finishing touch?"
Real Salt Lake went into halftime with only 38 percent of the possession, but managed to outshoot the hosts 8 to 6. Given most of their shots were off-frame, RSL were left ruing their near misses. Yura Movsisyan had a few good looks at goal and Tony Beltran could have taken a shot but instead fed it just behind the feet of Movsisyan, all in the first half. With just a little more precision, RSL could have headed home with a huge advantage for Wednesday's second leg at the RioT, but this match was defiantly a tale of two halves.
The sharpness in the final third wasn't what either the coaching staff or the fans would have liked. Tallying 12 total shots, five on-target and three were blocked. In all, this suggests that the offense is in fact creating chances but RSL will need to improve clinically if they are to get them below the cross-bar instead of over it.
Sharpness around the box is going to come, there is no question in that, but can RSL wait for it while the next leg of the CONCACAF Champions League is fast approaching?
RSL was blinded by science
Just as I mentioned in my tactical preview, RSL had the opportunity to exploit a lack of chemistry along the left flank of Tigres. This opportunity, however, was instead turned on its head and used against preseason form Salt Lake with the Mexican league already seven matches into their season.
The lack of chemistry is mostly about timing. With three new faces in the starting XI, including Aaron Maund who became Chris Schuler's replacement in the offseason, there were moment of disconnect that both robbed and punished RSL. The lack of understanding was felt at both ends of the pitch as the attack could not find the back of the net and the defense looked like bumbling school children. Professional chemistry doesn't just appear, however, instead it has to be earned.
Most of chemistry isn't just spontaneous, a lot of times it takes a catalyst to effect real change (no pun intended). The team will work on getting better every day, but there isn't going to be much change between last Wednesday and next. It is still very early to be pointing fingers and blame, in a couple of months' time we will see what kind of squad has been assembled. Until then, RSL will need to find the missing link(s) in team cohesiveness.
Positive anything is better than negative nothing
Now that all the negatively is out of the way lets close with the positives.
The winner of the tweet of the match goes to none other than Andy Larsen:
Donald Trump, we don't need a wall. America already has Nick Rimando.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 25, 2016
Nick Rimando onced again showed his worth stopping a, albeit rather poorly taken, penalty from Tigres star striker André-Pierre Gignac. Moreover, he stopped him from finding the back of the net at all throughout the match. In other words, Gignac was subdued and that is something Liga MX clubs have struggled to do.
Other positive came through the rotation and partnership in the midfield. The Beckerman and Sunny partnership appeared to be the saving light for RSL more than once. Disregarding the couple of hiccups - which I will chalk down to preseason jitters - the Beckerman-Sunny partnership has the potential to pay huge dividends this season.
While fans and coaching staff alike would have preferred this match to go another way, there was certainly positives gleaned from the run of play. As the club's first competitive match of 2016, at times there were things that could have been better but a bird in the hand is always better than two in the bush.