We all knew coming into this year that there was a giant question mark hovering over the back four of Real Salt Lake. In what seems to have been our leakiest year in recent memory, 2015 saw RSL tied for the worst goal differential in the Western Conference at -10.
Yes, you read that right. A horrific -10 goal differential.
The offseason didn’t play out the way that any of us had hoped and at this point we are still without a marquee signing on the back line. Chris Wingert has come into shore up the wing backs and has impressed in his time on the field, but there is still something to be said about the need for a signing to solidify the back line.
Without one we may be doomed to repeat a lot of the mistakes made last season.
One of the big issues last season was giving up late goals. This, as was seen yesterday, is already rearing it’s ugly head as the potential defensive talking point this season.
After yesterday’s loss Jeff Cassar said:
"We’re dynamic, you can’t take away one thing cause we’ll punish you with something else. But when you get those leads you’ve got to keep them."
The concern from most fans right now is that we won’t.
So what are the issues and why can’t we figure them out? How long do you want to read for? I’ll try and break it down into what I think the 2 biggest issues with our defending currently are.
1) Jamison Olave
Honestly Jamison had a good game yesterday, and he will mostly have good games. He’s fast, incredibly strong, and intimidating. The issue is that he isn’t as fast, strong, or intimidating as he used to be and I don’t think he realizes this. Because of his speed Jamison has spent his whole career getting away with ball watching and playing out of position.
Now having lost even a half-step, his speed can’t make up for not paying attention and getting beat inside. There was a time when, on the second goal for Orlando, Olave would have pulled away from the striker and simply touched the ball out of bounds. Unable to do that he made a weak attempt at a tackle and the RSL lost 2 points. I could go on about this, but I’ll leave it at that.
2) Lack of leadership
This is where I think that Chris Wingert actually becomes a great pick up and should really play more. In years past, when Olave specifically was at his very best, there was a vocal and cerebral leader on the back line that directed traffic in front of Rimando, coordinating the four defenders into a seemingly unbreachable wall. Think Nat Borchers and even Chris Schuler in this role. Their job was to guide and shape the defense, and players like Olave, so that mental lapses were the exception, not the rule. Right now there is no loud cerebral leader in that back four, and we desperately need one.
Like I said, I could go on and on about this. Midfield breakdowns (Luke on the first OCSC goal), set piece defending, tracking blind side runners, the conundrum at left back, etc. I focus on these two because I really believe that sorting them out will make settle things enough so that certain things become less glaring.
There’s a business principle surrounding getting the right people on the bus so that you can get them into the right position to succeed as an organization. There’s a similar concept here, in that we don’t have the right personnel in the middle of the defense and it’s causing mistakes to be made on the sides and up through the midfield. RSL, in all competitions, currently sit at a -2 goal differential. Picking things up right where we left off, it seems. Sort out the center, build a foundation, and watch things change in the defensive third and hopefully that goal differential will take a swing in the right direction.
What would you want to see change?