Real Salt Lake is no longer the only unbeaten club in Major League Soccer. After the LA Galaxy’s 5-2 win over RSL, the two clubs sit on equal terms with 14 points. Still above the thin red line, the club has shown its weaknesses in the 2016 season which need to be addressed. Cassar and Co. will have to get the Claret-and-Cobalt back on track and this match has a lot to teach the organization.
False eloquence is exaggeration
NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) released an article the day after Real’s thumbing at the hands of the LA Galaxy with the text, "No longer unbeaten, #RSL ‘s regression has begun." The same article stated, "LA Galaxy are rolling." Even though both clubs have the exact same record, this article seems to suggest that the Galaxy are miles above Real. Now that is nothing if not the definition of hyperbolic.
Following in the footsteps of Andy Edwards, author of the aforementioned article, let's take a look to see how the RSL squad that took on the Galaxy a few days ago compares to the 2015 RSL:
|2015||v. LA (4/23/16)|
|Avg. Pass Length:||19m||20m|
|Avg. Duels Won:||48%||55%|
Let's get the similar statistics out of the way first. The Claret-and-Cobalt achieved a shot and pass accuracy that were exactly same as the club over the 2015 campaign. Similarly, the club retained the same amount of possession. RSL also had a comparable shot accuracy and average pass length.
Against the Galaxy, however, the defense appeared to be a glaring weakness for the club. RSL conceded significantly more goals and achieved significantly less defensive actions on average. RSL has been rather successful at defending as a group. Previous to the LA match, the wingers have been involved in many defensive actions folding back to cover the backline. After the exit of "El Burrito" Juan Martinez, the wingers completed only five defensive actions the the entire match - significantly less than the season average of 10.2. Because of the absence of defensive cover, the club suffered being pulled apart on multiple occasions; none more glaring than the Emmanuel Boateng goal:
RSL also committed a higher number of punishable offenses earning three yellow cards on the night. While this is technically not statistically significant, it does show a club that became increasing frustrated over the course of the 90 minutes.
Despite all of this, there were bright lights for the Claret-and-Cobalt. With the defense struggling, the offense continued to show promise. Prior to this match, RSL was producing on average 7.7 goal scoring opportunities per match - comparable to the 8.1 produced in 2015. Against the Galaxy, however, the RSL attackers created 17 chances and two goals. And if that is not enough to see the light; finding the back of the net twice in a losing game does not feel like much but Real holds a 11-2-4 record since the start of the 2015 MLS regular season when its players have scored at least two goals.
In short, RSL's continued to produce offense against the Galaxy, but it was not enough to overcome the defensive lapses that occurred. But by suggesting RSL is regressing back into a squad that will miss the playoffs, people are grossing exaggerating the impact of a single match and, furthermore, the club's only loss on the year - not to even mention the absence of three key contributors for the starting whistle and a fourth if you count Burrito's exit.
Other things to ponder:
3. RSL continued to utilize the flanks while the Galaxy cut through the center of the pitch. Eighty percent of RSL attacks came through flank play with the Galaxy dominating the center of the pitch. LA attacked down the center of the pitch a club season high of 32 percent, as their flanks were unable to create many opportunities. The Galaxy completed only eight percent of their crosses to RSL's 42 percent. But instead of relying on technique, the Galaxy simply shoved the ball down RSL's throat playing direct soccer - also a result of a high number of individual defensive errors on RSL's part.
2. The Claret-and-Cobalt have been the only squad to out possess the Galaxy at the StubHub Center. Bruce Arena has produced a club and squad that seeks to dominate possession, but Real managed to capture 52 percent of the possession last weekend.
1. RSL created a high number of chances relative to their possession. Possessing the ball for about 47 minutes in last Saturday's match, the club created 17 chances in 21 shots as a visiting side. In other words, the Claret-and-Cobalt managed to create a chance every 2.8 minutes on their opponent's field.
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.