Real Salt Lake sent a few players to Real Monarchs on the weekend; we've picked out three of them to take a closer look at and discuss their impacts on the match, as well as what it means for their standing with Real Salt Lake.
While he's a certain backup for Real Salt Lake this year, Sandoval looks to have come on leaps and bounds in the last year. While his acceleration isn't the quickest, his pace was on full display against Saint Louis FC — on a few occasions, he was able to beat defenders in a dead sprint, nearly creating chances each time.
The big issue Sandoval dealt with was in that creation, and the problem there is two-fold. First, he's not the most intently creative striker RSL has, and while his hold-up play involves an element of that, he's not currently a line-leading striker that can carve out chances for others. This is in part down to his playing style and abilities, and in part down to the tactical use of the central striker in the 4-2-3-1.
Second, when he received the ball, he was often the only player forward — this led to him being on a bit of an island; at most, he'd have a player out wide. That's the big difference, right now, between Real Monarchs and Real Salt Lake: Instead of having options available, he was left alone. There's obviously plenty of time for Real Monarchs to sort that out, given this was their first competitive match of the season.
While this wasn't the absolute best test case for Stertzer in the Kyle Beckerman role, he did surprisingly well in replicating the RSL captain's playing tendencies. We also got some confirmation that this is the role Stertzer is being groomed for, which sets him apart from someone like Luke Mulholland, who is best-served in a box-to-box role.
Stertzer did this by consistently dropping into defensive positions when launching possession, sitting between the two center backs with the ball. This helps to relieve pressure from full backs who aren't quite as skilled at distribution, and it lessens the risk of having both full backs involved in build-up play.
The biggest issue we faced in evaluating was seeing how he did when faced with a particularly skillful attacking midfielder. Because that was absent in Saint Louis FC, we didn't get to see enough to make a full evaluation.
We did also see Stertzer look a bit slow in releasing the ball, but this may not be such a bad thing: He is purposefully slowing play, and having that intention rather than releasing the ball as quickly as possible shows well in his development.
Regardless, Stertzer did well to stop major swathes of attack from coming through the middle of the pitch, and we'd say he passed any test set out for him here. For that reason, I suspect that Stertzer will be given an opportunity to spell for Kyle Beckerman on Saturday, given he is absent with a red card suspension.
With Saint Louis FC often trying to attack over the top or from wide, Justen Glad was tested a few times, and on each occasion, he came out on top. On one occasion, he did make a bit of a hash of things, going to ground and losing a player. But during that same play, he did extremely well to stand back up, keep possession of the ball after Jeff Attinella pawed it away, and release possession away from danger.
We know that at this point in his career, he will make mistakes. This is common among young players, even the very best of them. We need to accept that, and then we can come to understand how he can overcome it, as well as how we can accommodate for his current weaknesses. Remember — Nat Borchers was at his best with Real Salt Lake when he had someone like Jamison Olave next to him, ready and able to erase any errors he committed. It is realistic and necessary to admit that no center back is perfect; once we get there with Justen Glad, and once we put the right people alongside him, he has every chance to succeed at Real Salt Lake.
Not to forget...
- Jeff Attinella was as solid as you'd expect, and he made a couple very good saves
- Luke Mulholland was good in the box-to-box role, but he was also shifted around in attacking roles after substitutions
- Finally, no evaluation for Omar Holness, obviously, other than our well wishes as he recovers from the apparent seizure he suffered in the 34th minute. All indications are that he is doing well.