Looking back at Wednesday's match against Tigres, it became easy and convenient to cast aspersions on Yura Movsisyan, who had two good opportunities and finished neither.
One came just before the half, and in that one, we can see that the pitch is a bit bobbly; as a result, Movsisyan's chance was never as good as it appeared from a steep TV angle. Truth be told, he probably could have been better with that one, but it was also not as clear-cut as we would have liked.
His second came just after the half, and it was easily the better-taken chance of the two. It's also the one that bears more examination, because it came from some very good attacking movement. Let's begin.
A) Tony Beltran is in a good position to win a header, and he does it with aplomb. Rather than blasting the ball back upfield — maybe looking for Javier Morales or Yura Movsisyan, both of whom are in more advanced positions, he instead finds Kyle Beckerman.
As a secondary note, Demar Phillips and the two center backs are in a deeper, more reserved position — they're not sprinting forward to win the ball or aid in the attack, and that's to be expected. They're playing a little more conservatively, and it's good tee that sort of realism.
B) Beckerman is ready to receive a headed pass, and this is clearly one of the advantages that come with playing with somebody for nearly a decade. He understands where Beltran can put the ball, and he's ready to receive the pass.
Note also Sunny, who is further from Beltran but still in a good position. He's also there for an immediate pass from Beckerman, or to interchange with Javier Morales (C) or Burrito Martinez (D).
C) Javier Morales is in an advanced position, but here, he's almost acting as a decoy rather than as a pivot. He's force defenders to pay heed to his positioning, and he immediately sets to draw them out of position. You'll see more of this in the following screenshot.
D) Burrito Martinez is a bit like Morales here — he's in a good position, but it's particularly important that he's drawing a defender out of position.
E) Yura Movsisyan is perhaps the most important player in this bit of movement. He's playing a hold-up role in the right channel, drawing a full back close. The next shot will be particularly telling as to his impact.
We can focus here a little more broadly, with attention paid to three important players. First, let's look at Yura Movsisyan receiving the pass from Kyle Beckerman. He's moved to receive it, and Burrito Martinez's defender is drawing to Movsisyan. Javier Morales spots this and starts an immediate run up field, knowing that he's not going to receive the ball, but that he'll draw that defensive midfielder away from a building play.
Importantly, Movsisyan shows good awareness to hold up play, and he's going to give it right back to the midfield. Sunny, having held his position, is now in a position to move diagonally and receive a pass, and this is exactly what happens.
Here's where the real movement starts. One might have expected Sunny to try a quick pass to Joao Plata in an advanced position, but withy some good midfield covering, he doesn't have a clear-cut route to him. He opts for Demar Phillips, who is moving forward (and Beltran is responding to this by moving back, acting as the counterbalance in this case.
Note the movement of Javier Morales and Yura Movsisyan, both of whom are shifting to the left in response to Phillips' imminent receipt of the ball.
Things get trickier from here. Phillips finds Morales with an excellent long pass, then Morales inexplicably loses his first touch and dribbles it right into a player. It seems inexplicable, but with what happens next, it becomes shockingly easy to work some purpose into the missed touch.
His touch and dribble takes him right into a Tigres defender, who immediately passes the ball toward his central defender. But that central defender has been following Javier Morales, and the other is following Yura Movsisyan — for now. Note, too, the movement of Joao Plata, who has drawn the intercepting defender toward him.
Here's our final look before the shot. We see Movsisyan has moved increasingly toward the left flank, and he's picking up the stray pass without any real struggle. He then receives the ball and with his first touch, breaks past the defender that's followed him from the right side. That defender is still on the outside of Movsisyan, and there's nothing he can do to prevent a shot except attempt to leap in front.
But look at that — in a few seconds, RSL has gone from attacking down the right to attacking down the left, and it's drawn everyone out of position. This is a 4-3-3 at its best — it's swung from one side to another, then back toward the center, either by design or by luck. But it's luck of RSL's own making, and it's luck that Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata both realized.
Now, Movsisyan's shot was saved by Tigres' goalkeeper — quite well, actually — and the shot obviously didn't come to a goal. But through good movement, surprising understanding, and a tactical stroke that we didn't know RSL had in its toolkit, we've been given a glimpse of what can come in 2016. We just now have to hope it comes again this time around against Tigres, and that the team's finishing will have improved since then.