On Wednesday, we saw something a little curious: Real Salt Lake didn't look bad against Tigres. In fact, they actually looked — dare I say it — really good for about 67 minutes until conceding that first damning goal.
This is, of course, ignoring the fact that Tigres missed some clear-cut opportunities, but those sorts of things happen occasionally. It felt a bit like we got lucky and a bit like we were very good, with reality being somewhere in the middle of both.
We can talk about fitness as the main reason they struggled late, but a few more factors come into play with this one. In fact, there's plenty of room for improvement during that "really good" period, too.
With that in mind, here are four things Real Salt Lake can improve on in Wednesday's match.
Passing accuracy: Keep it on the ground
Real Salt Lake was by far the worse team where passing was concerned, and that's probably not surprising. Their 71 percent passing success rate was low; Tigres had 83 percent, which isn't even particularly high.
This is, in part, a testament to how well Tigres handled us, but it's also a story about how RSL tried to challenge the opposition. A great many passes were launched forward, and you need only look at this chart to see how that played out. These are RSL's unsuccessful passes, and you'll note that they're all quite long.
If RSL keeps the ball on the ground more, does that give them a better opportunity to retain possession? For the answer, let's go to the charts again. These are RSL's successful passes.
A return to finishing school
Just take a look at this shooting chart from Real Salt Lake: We can see here how it can be improved. Aside from a couple good shots from distance, RSL was never really able to challenge a shaky goalkeeper. An improvement here could lead to success, and it'll take a couple goals to really get back in the conversation.
Continue conceding fouls in good positions
Outside of a handball call and one Sunny foul that led to the first goal of the match, Real Salt Lake did reasonably well at keeping Tigres from having good set piece opportunities (aside from corners, which is another story altogether.) Two fouls in the defensive third is quite good, and it's a big improvement over last year. This was clearly part of the strategy, and it's pretty obvious why that would be the case. After all, there's no better way to keep the opposition from scoring by not giving them the opportunities they need.
Beware short corners
Of the seven corners RSL conceded, four led to successful crosses by Tigres. You don't need a chart here, obviously. In fact, it's a really boring chart. Don't believe me? I'll show you.
But actually, for as boring as that chart is, it tells one distinct story: Tigres weren't afraid to try a short corner. I don't know if we didn't expect that, or if were simply OK with allowing them, but it might be one area where Real Salt Lake can find an opportunity.