We've been talking this week about some of the weaknesses Seattle Sounders may be defensively unsound, but that might be masking some of Real Salt Lake's issues in the process.
These two teams will face each other on Saturday with similar issues, and that's likely to make for an interesting — if stressful — matchup. With the issues facing RSL's defense, injuries aren't really our undoing so much as a lack of strong leadership.
Defensive leadership is lacking, but there's no easy answer
That's obviously something that's hurting the team right now, and RSL coach Jeff Cassar will be hoping that some minor adjustments will help with a short-term understanding and build some strength as a result. The blame-pointing finger is quick to head toward Jamison Olave, but there are other issues, too, that must be corrected.
Unfortunately, it's not something that can be solved by placing Justen Glad in the lineup. For all his good qualities, and for all his potential to be a cerebral, nuanced center back, he's still young, and there's a degree of uncertainty there. It's not that Glad wouldn't solve the problems RSL faces, but it's that he might not be given the right opportunity to solve them.
Part of that issue is that he needs players on either side of him who will amplify his good qualities and feed his young confidence. In that way, this might be the best opportunity RSL has — and only because of a red card on Sunday that made life difficult, with Demar Phillips being sent off.
Chris Wingert's influence
Chris Wingert is not a speedy, inventive wing back in the way that Demar Phillips might be able to be, should things get sorted out. But he does provide a lot of influence on the team, and he does have good understandings with players that provides a net gain. That's not to say that Phillips can't develop those attributes, but he simply hasn't quite yet.
What we may want to watch from Wingert is how he interacts with somebody like Justen Glad — if he's helping lead a communicative effort, RSL will be better for it. This is something we can expect from Wingert after years of watching him play, so there's not much risk that he wouldn't provide that good influence.
However, his influence could extend a bit more centrally — there's a reason young center backs often start as full backs (think Chris Schuler in 2011 as left back), and that's because their errors there are less intensified. There's room for a center back to cover and adjust when a full back is out of position. When a center back is out of position, there's not much recourse.
I might advocate for putting Justen Glad at left back and Chris Wingert at center back, if just for a match or two. That solves two short-term issues: Wingert can play the communicative center back role, even if it's not his best, and Glad can get minutes without being a crucial cog.
Javier Morales' injury worry
It seems that Javier Morales might be struggling with a rib injury, and that throws our analysis into a bit of confusion. It may also be a chance for young Jordan Allen to earn minutes against a defensively weakened team, and that could provide some excitement and intrigue on its own.
It's Allen that leaves me with less worry than excitement about the prospect of seeing him play, and that's a credit to his strengths. As an attacking midfielder, he's prone to run at players and move into wide positions, where Morales is more likely to be seen these days dropping into the midfield and letting other players make the runs around him.
In that way, Allen might be the closest thing we have to a 2010 Javier Morales — he's not quite as inventive, but he's potentially as dangerous. If Allen can come in and influence the match, retain possession, and help other players get into even more dangerous situations, then we may not have to worry about missing Morales for a few games after all.