1. There's still no like-for-like replacement for Javier Morales, and that's OK
We've talked a lot in the past about what happens to Real Salt Lake if Javier Morales is suddenly out of commission for an extended period of time. Saturday was our first chance to see at least a week of that, with Jordan Allen replacing the injured attacking midfielder.
This isn't the most natural position for Allen, who has talked before about being most comfortable out wide. But if you watched, you wouldn't have too much a sense of Allen's hesitance — but you'd also see his best passes coming when he was outside and cutting in.
Take, for example, his 24th minute near-assist. He starts wide to receive the ball from a sublime Burrito Martinez flick, then gets free to send a very good pass to Joao Plata.
This is an excellent example of what Jordan Allen can bring in this position — he's more of an attacking midfielder than a playmaker at this point in his career, but he can combine the two aspects for success.
But it's more than just that — his specific skills in getting up the flanks means he's a good option on the counter attack. Javier Morales isn't particularly fast, and he's typically better at springing attacks than he is leading them — Allen presents something completely different.
The big thing to watch here is Allen's run, obviously, but you should also note the way he's dropping back into the midfield to receive a quick pass. Allen then attracts the direct attention of three players, and it's only the last one that manages to clear the ball out for a corner.
Sunny's goal came directly from that corner. This is the impact an attacking midfielder can have without earning an assist directly, and even if he didn't have a perfect time of it, he made a distinct impact.
2. RSL isn't flawless
There were some less than perfect moments in RSL's win, too — especially in the 28th minute, when they conceded the opener to Seattle. There were still problems marking a back post run, particularly by Aaron Maund, who fell asleep after Nick Rimando got his hands to a flicked shot and couldn't get in front of an Osvaldo Alonso shot.
The team also struggled to build real sustained possession, which made their intended style of play difficult at times. This was largely because of Seattle's compact midfield approach, but it was something RSL didn't quite find a way to work around. How many passes ended up landing right at Osvaldo Alonso's feet? And how many times did a quick restart end up with RSL losing possession? Too many on both accounts.
3. Sunny Obayan is the signing RSL needed most
If we're to take anything away from this match, it's that Sunny Obayan is already one of the more important players at Real Salt Lake this season. It's obviously a little early to make proclamations like that, but after three excellent performances in four games (with his worst being when he was substituted before he could make his mark on the game), it's becoming easy to be a bit hasty in our judgments.
But what might be his biggest impact is in relieving the tactical pressure that's constantly hoisted on Kyle Beckerman. With Luke Mulholland in the side, Beckerman can be caught alone too easily — that's something the Englishman still needs to add to his game. Mulholland's interpretation of the box-to-box role spreads him into wide positions, and often, he's not in any position to cover for Beckerman when he goes up-field.
There was a lot of largely unsourced talk surrounding Beckerman and RSL's move to a 4-3-3 last season, and it certainly looked like it wasn't the best formation for him. He was too often the last line of defense that wasn't covered for — it wasn't an approach that suited a team whose center backs aren't converted midfielders, and whose full backs aren't converted center backs. That sort of group could allow the defensive midfielder in the lineup to push far enough to be caught out, but it's not a group that RSL is likely to have in the near future.
Until then, having Sunny in the team to work with Beckerman and ensure that one is covering for the other is about as good as you can get. It allows RSL to build from the midfield more effectively, and even if this match didn't see too much of that, there was a lot to be excited about.