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Talking Tactics: The 12th Man and more from match day six

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another three points at home for Real Salt Lake. After their 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, RSL has captured all nine points available from home matches. The Claret-and-Cobalt also remains the only unbeaten club in league and are MLS’s gold standard collecting 2.33 points per match. After a four match losing streak against the ‘Caps that stretched back to 2014, Cassar and Co. where finally able to get that monkey off their back and here are some of the statistics on how they got it done.

The influence of the Twelfth Man

For the first time in a long time, RSL is employing different styles of play. While head coach Jeff Cassar might switch things up now and then to keep the opposition on their toes, he is also employing very different home and away styles.

Home Match Averages Away Match Averages Season Average
Goals Scored 1.3 2 1.7
Set-piece Goals 0.7 1.3 1
Goals Conceded 0.3 2 1
Shot Accuracy 47 % 68 % 56 %
Scoring Chances Created 9 7 8
Possession 52.3 % 44.7 % 49 %
Number of Passes 440 294 367
Pass Accuracy 75.7 % 70.3 % 74 %
Pass Streak 4 3.3 3.7
Pass Length 18.7 m 20 m 19.3 m
Duels Won 50 % 43.5 % 47 %
Defensive Actions 40 62 51
Cards (Y/R) 1 / 0 2.7 / 1 1.8 / 0.5

Ok, so let’s break down what all these numbers are telling us.

First and foremost, the Claret-and-Cobalt’s average of 8 scoring opportunities created per 90 minutes is among the lowest in the league. Still, Real is above Toronto who has only managed to create 43 chances to RSL’s 46, even with the MLS MVP, Sebastian Giovinco, on their squad. I guess money can’t buy you everything.

Real’s chances have come from all over the pitch, with six players contributing to the 11 chances created against the Whitecaps alone. The Claret-and-Cobalt have gone back to their roots per se instead of focusing on big name, big money players like other clubs in the league. With everyone contributing once again to produce goal-scoring opportunities, RSL exemplifies how "The Team is the Star."

There is a stark contrast in opportunities created in regards to the venue, however. When RSL is home they tend to create more chances than when at the opponent’s ground which leads us into the second takeaway.

As stated before, Real is employing very different home and away styles. When they are at home the club tends to be more similar to the old tiki-taka style employed under former head coach Jason Kries. According to the stats, RSL retains more possession at home, they rely on longer build-up play, and their passes are shorter and more accurate and there are more of them. Away from home, however, the club is more aggressive, they sit back defending more often, they are more disposed to long-balls, but they also have a higher shot accuracy.

In short, RSL can and will employ either tiki-taka soccer of years past or they rely on the in fashion quick counter-attack when it suits them. At home the club is more liberal and on the road they are more conservative in their play. But either way they have found success, evident of their six match unbeaten streak – seven if you include the last CONCACAF Champion’s League match.

Third and final take-away from the above data centers around goals, but scored and conceded. When compared against 2015, RSL is doing better in both aforementioned categories. Last year, the Claret-and-Cobalt only managed to score 1.1 goals per 90 minutes while conceding 1.4. This left RSL with a negative 0.3 goal differential per match which is far below the positive 0.7 goal differential of this year. The 2016 incarnation of Real has almost doubled the amount of set-piece goals scored, as well. All of this without the services of Javier Morales half of the time.

All considered, adaptability has been one of the strengths of RSL this year. Going into 2015, Cassar told the media that implementing the 4-3-3 would give the squad increased flexibility and the patience of the coaching staff and players is finally getting rewarded. Able to adjust the formation to the opposition, the 4-3-3 has proved versatile so far in 2016.

Other things to mull-over:

5. Yura Movsisyan hit the wood-work for the second time this year against Vancouver. This means that Yura currently holds the league record for times striking the woodwork in 2016. In both cases, the RSL attacker could have had a goal if it was a couple of centimeters this way or that. In other words, Movsisyan could have already had three goals on the year. But he still only has one tally so far in 2016 after ten shots.

4. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield dominated the center of the pitch even without two starters. Luke Mullholland and John Stertzer came into the starting XI for Javi and Sunny, respectfully. Both players did well accompanied with Kyle Beckerman in effectively taking ‘Caps playmaker, Nicolas Mezquida, out of the game. Mezquida was only able to create a single change on the night and it came from a long-ball which fit Vancouver’s style on the night. Of the Whitecaps’ ten chances, seven of them were created from long passes because RSL’s midfield was able to dominate the center of the pitch.

3. Vancouver attempted eight take-on to RSL’s 18. Only two of the Caps’ were successful, while RSL managed to dribble passed their opponent 13 times. Leading this charge was "El Burrito" Juan Martinez who attempted 11 take-ons and completed eight of them (73 percent). If you want to check out the highlights check out RSL’s Twitter Handle.

2. The flank play was once again an important aspect of RSL’s game. The pass combinations of Beltran to Martinez and Phillips to Plata were the highest in the match and accounted for 27 of all of RSL’s passes. The reverse combinations – Martinez to Beltran and Plata to Phillips – also proved valuable accounting for 14 more passes. In all, flank pass combinations accounted for nearly ten percent of all of the club’s passes and maintained the highest accuracy of another location on the pitch.

1. RSL was effective at stealing the ball from the opposition. RSL created a number of turnovers off well timed tackles. When compared to the opposition, the Claret-and-Cobalt had nearly double the success rate and only fouled the opposition three instead of five times.

What do you think? Is there any trend that you would like to mention? Is there a specific set of tactics that you felt dominated the match? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.