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Talking Tactics: Turnovers, possession, and more from matchday nine

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Another hard night befell the Claret-and-Cobalt, but this time at the hands of the Colorado Rapids. In their first match of this away stretch, Real Salt Lake’s trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park ended in a 1-0 defeat. The Rocky Mountain Cup now sits evenly between the two clubs with neither side able to claim an advantage. The once tied clubs in the standings entering the night’s match, now sit in first and second, but Real still have a game in hand over their Rocky Mountain Rivals. The Derby, rather lethargic at times, left many wondering what happened, so let’s explore just that.

Examining the Coach's View

After the match, RSL head coach Jeff Cassar credited turnovers as a major reason to why the club was defeated in Commerce City, Colorado.

“We turned the ball over in core areas which led to us retreating back to the goal. You never want that,” Cassar told MLSsoccer.com.

In the heat of the match sometimes people see what they want to see. Sometimes accountings are not quite as accurate as one is led to believe. But other times, they are spot on. So, just take a gander at the match’s interception chart:

COL v. RSL Interception Chart, 07 May 2016
Courtesy of Who Scored.

Here are the basics; on the night, RSL intercepted the ball 26 times to the Rapids' 20. The Colorado midfield intercepted the ball 11 times, second only to the RSL defense with 24 interceptions. It was the aggressive play of the Rapid's midfield that contributed the most significantly, however. Five of RSL's 20 turnovers happened in their defensive half - and at least three of those within 35 yards of the goal. With a quarter of their turnovers occurring in their own half, RSL struggled to keep Colorado from creating chances.

Both of the above plays were created on turnover opportunities. In both cases, Colorado seized the initiative.

COL v. RSL Loss of Possession Chart, 07 May 2016
Courtesy of Who Scored.

A real telling factor of any match is just how many turnovers happen in a club's defensive half. As mentioned before, RSL lost possession in their own half five times - the majority being in dangerous positions - while Colorado only lost possession in their own half twice - both, relatively close to the midway line.

So, while their were most definitely other factors that influences this defeat, Cassar is on to something when he suggested that turnovers limited the RSL attack - since you cannot attack when you are pinned back against your own goal.

The idea that a match can be won by standing on the defensive is a dangerous fallacy.

Cassar also had this to say, in regards to Jermaine Jones' goal:

“We turned the ball over about 35 yards away from goal. We had it contained and we just didn’t do a good job. Jones was dangerous all night. We had spoken about it and probably didn’t deal with it great.”

Jones was most definitely a talking point coming into this match - confirmed by Cassar's aforementioned statement. He has always been an impact player and with Colorado there has been no exceptions. But before going into his impact on the match, let's focus on his goal for a moment.

Playing in a more advanced role, Jermaine Jones is better able to influence the offense of the Rapids - which he as been doing to great avail. And, once again, against RSL he was no different.

On yet another turnover, the Claret-and-Cobalt were left to sprint back to their goal. As a result, a lot of space opened up for the Colorado Rapids to operate in. Take a look:

First, Luis Solignac - who we mentioned as already being a thorn in the side of RSL - was yet again, you guessed it, a thorn in the defense's side. Dropping deep to receive the ball after the Claret-and-Cobalt lost possession, he then cuts through five RSL players with his through ball to Kevin Doyle. This is significant because not only did Jamison Olave lose his mark, being Doyle, but he allowed the striker to get in between him and his goal.

Therefore, Olave had to make a recovery run to contain the Irish international which opened up all the space in the world for Jones at the top of the 18 yard box. Some might point the finger at Justen Glad, but as the secondary central defender away from the play, his job was to cover the far post - which he did. The problem is that not only was Olave not there to pressure Jones but RSL's midfield was nowhere in sight, having been trailing the play since midfield.

With yet another defensive blunder on the part of the veteran Olave, many fans and the coaching staff in the organization where once again left pondering and wishing for the speedy recovery of Aaron Maund.

Jones-ing for a Fight

Speaking of Jermaine Jones, the U.S. international and newly minted Colorado playmaker made quite a statement in his first Rocky Mountain Derby.

It was Jones' match winning goal that many will be talking about, but there were other things Jones did that helped the Rapids clinch victory.

As a playmaker he might still be an enigma, but his influence on the match is undeniable. Despite not creating a single chance for his teammates to score, he did, however, link up much of Colorado's play. Jones completed 77 percent of his 52 passes, of which 39 were in the attacking half. He also had 68 touches on the night, and once again the major of them - 75 percent - were in the attacking half.

Jermaine Jones Heatmap v. RSL
Courtesy of Squawka.

Jones, in other words, dominated the center third of the pitch - evident of his heatmap. But offense aside, Jones continued to put in the defensive work, unlike most traditional No. 10s.

In his hybrid box-to-box role, Jones achieved two defensive actions against RSL. Both of these were interceptions but his contribution did not end there. Jones also won 67 percent of aerial duels and attempted 5 tackles. While we was blown for committing the foul three times compared to being only fouled once, he kept the RSL midfield trio of Kyle Beckerman, Sunny, and Javier Morales out of the match for the majority of the game. Unlike his Real counterparts, Jones was never really taken out of the match.

Jermaine Jones Touches Timeline
Courtesy of Who Scored.

With Jones able to dictate not only his but all of Colorado's play, RSL found itself on the back foot for most of the match.

The one thing the Claret-and-Cobalt was able to do was limit Jones' number of shots he took. While he did end up converting, one shot on-target out of three is much better that the four shots he managed to keep on frame against the Seattle Sounders.

Some other things to think about:

3. Once again the Claret-and-Cobalt out possessed the home squad in a defeat. Managing to retain 51 percent of the possession, much of RSL's clinical nature vanished. Real created ten scoring opportunities and six shots on-frame. Instead, Colorado was the more clinical only managing to keep four shots on-target but also securing the lone match winner.

2. Despite contrary belief, RSL was no better at creating chances against Colorado when Joao Plata was on the pitch. In total, Real created ten scoring opportunities - five before Plata entered the match and five after. Plata did manage to create two chances but that only tied him with Yura Movsisyan and Beckerman.

1. RSL never gave up. The Claret-and-Cobalt fought tooth and nail until the very end. With Real able to dominate the last portion of the match, it was a lot closer than the first half would have led you to believe.

Courtesy of MLSsoccer.com.

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.