Real Salt Lake's 1-0 loss to Colorado Rapids was hardly the worst loss of the season, but it wasn't the result we were particularly interested in achieving.
As we take a look back at the match, though, some things stick out. Let's take a closer look at substitution patterns (everyone's favorite, after all) and tactical shifts to see how things shifted and skewed over 90 minutes.
Double subs, and three at the back
It's not often Real Salt Lake rolls out a double substitution, especially under Jeff Cassar. But removing Sunny, who was on a yellow card, and Jordan Allen, who struggled to involve himself heavily, was a bold move. Luke Mulholland came on and provided a bit more further up the pitch (although you could argue that's just down to tactical instruction), and Joao Plata helped provide a bit more directness in the attack.
That boldness was heightened when Jamison Olave was removed for Devon Sandoval. That's not the sort of substitution we've come to expect for two reasons: First, Cassar retained the less experienced center back as the single dedicated defender. Second, Sandoval presented a change in approach — with play increasingly moving toward long balls hoisted in the air, Sandoval's presence was widely felt. It does leave us wondering what's happened to Olmes Garcia, who was left on the bench once again.
The Plata effect, and a change in approach
Obviously, Plata's presence didn't change everything — you have to also consider what Mulholland added to the game. But do take a look at these two competing passing charts, showing passes before and after the double substitution.
You see all that concentration over on the left side? That's the Plata effect. There are other things to notice there, too, but that's one thing that made a big difference.
You can also see how things have been pushed forward, and how key passes were created in better areas. That's down to a change in approach (from both teams, certainly, because nothing exists in a vacuum.)
Part of that can certainly be attributed to a purposeful change. Here's what Jeff Cassar had to say after the match:
We were turning over the ball in bad areas, we thought our wingers were coming too far back to get it from our outside backs. Our shape was just odd, I thought it was individual things. — Jeff Cassar, broadcast post-game
Starting the second half ... not so strong
Seriously. That goal from Jermaine Jones was preventable. He had an excellent shot, but to be in that position without a challenge is inexcusable. We'll certainly break this down later in the week, but it would be educational to at least take a quick look.
The midfield has abandoned defending here. Jermaine Jones has been allowed a free diagonal run, and Colorado has been allowed a chance for an excellent pass to beat the defensive line. Sure, that back heel was surprisingly good, but somebody has to step up and see Jones.