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Talking Tactics: Youngsters, Wingers and more from match day 11

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake got back on track with a triumphant sweep of Sporting Kansas City at home. This six-point match was fought with grit with both clubs coming out of a rough run of matches – Kansas more so than RSL. Still, the rivalry that isn’t really a rivalry was played on MLS Rivalry Weekend, so that interpretation I leave up to you. But with no further ado, here are some of the talking points from last Saturday’s match.

Defense wins the day

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

SKC has been struggling as of recent. After becoming the epitome of MLS Cup Champions by many MLS pundits only three matches into the season, RSL handed Sporting their first loss of 2016 and on home turf, nonetheless. Kansas has spiraled from that point going on a seven match winless streak without finding any answers and they certainly did not have any for the RSL defense.

Aaron Maund is now 25 years young and Justen Glad is only 19. Despite their ages, RSL has apparently found their starting center-back pairing. With a median age of 22, RSL is currently fielding the youngest center-back core in the league. Still, RSL is 5-0-0 when the Maund-Glad partnership is in center defense, compared to 1-3-2 with any other pairing. More impressive still is the +6 goal differential when Maund and Glad are on the pitch (-4 when they are not).

Even for the offensively struggling Kansas City side, the RSL defense appeared almost nye impregnable for the majority of the match. Kansas City accumulated 15 total shots and of those only four were on target. RSL’s defense put so much pressure on the SKC attackers that a third of their shots were blocked. In addition, the defensive line for the Claret-and-Cobalt also managed to prevent four crosses from getting whipped into the box. The Real defense also cleared the ball 39 times – yes, 39, that is not an error. In all, Real’s backline simply dominated their area and the Sporting attackers for that matter.

Shakespeare on the pitch

Much ado about nothing has been made about RSL’s low chance creation and shots statistics in 2016. “RSL is not taking enough shots,” or “RSL needs to create more chances,” are common ideas in the Twitter-sphere, but as we at RSL Soapbox have hashed out time and time again, there is much more than meets the eye in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s attack.

Once again RSL was able to maintain a large chance conversion rate and hold their opponent’s to a minimum. On average SKC creates 10.1 chances per 90 minutes, but, against RSL, Kansas only managed to create eight and nine, respectfully. Avoiding touching on the RSL defense once again, the simple take away here is that RSL is preventing the SKC creators from doing their jobs.

RSL, subsequently, also created less chances but with a different outcome. The Claret-and-Cobalt only managed to create three chances on the night. Unlike Sporting, however, RSL’s creative minds were not stymied by the opposition but simply used a counter-attacking style of play efficiently. Real was held to only 41.8 percent of the possession but still managed to convert on three occasions.

In other words, RSL scored once every 12.5 minutes when in possession of the ball. This is a huge leap from the season average of scoring once every 32 minutes in possession. Therefore, one might be left wondering how did RSL accomplish this?

Attacking Sides
Courtesy of Who Scored.

As you can see with the above attacking sides graph, RSL was able to get their wingers into the match – something that was absent the prior week against Houston. RSL played down the flanks 77 percent of the time stretching the opposition’s formation. In fact, the attacking trio of Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata and Juan Manuel Martinez accounted for over a fourth of all of RSL’s touches.

Touches Chart
Courtesy of Who Scored.

Using counter-attacking soccer, RSL was able to get the wings more involved which ultimately lead to success against SKC.

Other facts and figures:

3. RSL was more accurate with their passing when it counted. Despite Sporting being more accurate overall, RSL was more accurate in their passing in the attacking third.

Courtesy of

2. Nick Rimando stood on his head yet again. The Wall of the Wasatch was called into action a multitude of times against SKC but the opposition was only able to slip a single ball past the veteran. Rimando came up with three big saves, none larger than a diving save against Brad Davis. The RSL netminder was also able to stop Kansas from getting in behind the defense with this great catch:

1. Words of wisdom from Kyle:

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.