In a game that has been oversimplified by almost every single national outlet, Real Salt Lake came away from Rio Tinto Stadium with a very important three points on Saturday vs Colorado.
Coming into the match Real Salt Lake was finding form in front of goal and held an undefeated record despite some early troubles finishing matches; while Colorado entered with probably the tightest defense in the league, only allowing 2 goals all season before Saturday. An offense finding it’s form vs a defense that had found theirs. Add on top of that a bitter rivalry with 10 years of history and this match was bound to be a hard fought affair.
Chances were likely to be few for both teams and the match could have turned on one pass either way. All of that was to be expected with the history of these matches, but it was an almost perfect test for RSL after the Kansas City win the previous week. Salt Lake found a way to win through a defensive miscue but had been applying pressure and creating chances all match long.
We’ve learned a lot about RSL thus far this year, but here are three things that stood out in the first leg of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Cup.
Stiff defenses can be dealt with
Two weeks in a row, RSL has come up against a defense that has been hard to crack for every other team that has run up against it. Colorado had only given up 2 goals leading up to Saturday which led to some anxiety for all of us fans. We’ve seen this change occurring since the start of the year, but with the wins against SKC and Colorado, it’s fair to say that part of the new identity in Salt Lake is that all it takes, sometimes, is one chance.
Some in the national media are calling Joao Plata’s goal a miscue, which it is, but it seems that they are taking away all of the credit that led up to that little slip up. The build up from the back is something so different from what we’ve seen in years past. A quick outlet from Rimando, a pass to Javi who see’s Joao making a sharp diagonal run and puts a perfect ball into a dangerous area for him to run on to. Making those runs and hitting those dangerous balls forces defenders and keepers to make decisions that can result in what we saw Saturday.
Scoring goals is, in so many ways, forcing your opponent to make a mistake and taking advantage of it quickly. We can only hope that being consistently dangerous in varying attacks will keep defenses guessing and will allow RSL to take advantage of more mistakes throughout the year.
Good performances will be rewarded.
Against Sporting Kansas City Justen Glad got his first start of the year, his first goal of the year (and career), and played a pretty spectacular 90 min. He had some shaky moments, but all told he helped shut down one of the most dangerous strikers in the league for the majority of that match. A lot of questions flew around after that match about whether or not that performance would earn him another start against Colorado, a selection that would mean another week on the bench for Jamison Olave. There’s a certain art to coaching that goes into bringing up and rewarding young players for good showings. Many an RSL fan thought that without question he deserved another start. Thankfully Jeff agreed and thankfully, again, Justen performed admirably in a highly defensive match. Were there missteps? Yes. Is that to be expected? Yes. What I think this really says is that Jeff Cassar is evolving as a coach and that could be an amazing thing for RSL.
For the third thing, I wanted to bring in a different perspective. Spencer Warne has recently returned as one of the pre and post game commentary talking heads for RSL. I asked him what one thing he learned about RSL on Saturday was, and this was his response:
The team's character is changing
"This team is not relying on past glories or the veterans of the team to step up. Nicky (who was brilliant against the Rapids and by far his best game of the season) Javier, Kyle, Jamison have been decent and been in the team on merit. But you look at Maund, who is now the #1 CB at the club, shouldered the burden and taken it upon himself to step up. Sunny has been by far the best midfielder in the squad. He's there to shoulder the burden that has been on Kyle for so long. Kyle and Javi are benefitting from his energy. There are new kids on the block so to speak that are allowing the old guard to still play, but are also demanding the ball and respect. Whereas last season the team was still looking at the usual suspects to constantly bail the team out in that moment in need. Now there are eleven leaders that are willing to step up and take responsibility."
Couldn’t agree more. What stood out to you from the match on Saturday?