If you had told me that Real Salt Lake could walk into Red Bull Arena with a majority of its first team player missing after removing their head coach only days before and come out with a shut out and a point, I would have bitten your hand off to take that offer.
When the full-time whistle went I asked myself how we didn't win that game, and I know I wasn't the only one at the Soapbox asking the same. We created two clear-cut chances each half as well as a number of other dangerous moves, and we defended with a renewed spirit and desire.
However we failed to notch up a goal no matter how much pressure we applied and while I'm sick of flogging it, to paraphrase John Cleese, this horse is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. It is an ex-horse.
Finishing our Chances
I could copy and paste the last few of these articles to be honest, I'm not sure what is left to say. Four games in, one goal to show for it and not a hint of where our next one is coming from. Yura continues to try figure out if he is the target forward or the finisher, Plata and Allen are both out and Bofo and Lennon are still finding their feet in MLS despite how exciting they have been.
My issue with three man front line has always been that it's easy to handle if players don't have defined roles. You put the centre backs on the striker and let the full backs take care of the wingers while a 4 man midfield drowns out your 3 man mid. Unless your three players are doing their jobs.
If the front man is a target player he need to draw in all the heat from the defence and then open up a passing lane to wingers or attacking midfielders charging into the middle. If he is finishing off chances then he needs to play higher and force centre backs to choose between covering him and sitting deep (leaving a gap) or plugging the gap and risking him finishing (causing the full backs to panic as they drop deep to deal with wingers in possession).
Right now, RSL don't seem to know which they want and it's breaking the flow of things as far as I can see. Our best chance came with pressure from the wings so when Yura drew the defence and missed an overlapping run from Silva and Bofo it drew everyone's groans, even his own.
So coach Daryl Shore (or whoever it may be) need to pick a role for Yura, our wingers and the attacking midfield player. Who is creating and who is finishing in this attack and drill the players to play that way. I would prefer to see Yura holding the ball up and bringing our wingers in but that's because I have a soft spot for a good solid target man and Yura is struggling to hit the target with anything but his head but either is fine. Just pick because if we can't score against a Minnesota team that's leaking goals then the post mortem on our front line may as well be done now.
Keeping our Head
Something which has plagued us this season is a lack of focus in the middle of the park. I don't know what it is but Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland and Sunny have either made reckless challenges, had needless confrontations with the official or just had periods of sloppy play. We've always had a strong engine in midfield. and with a switch to a three-man midfield, we need to have people who will be able to form a partnership, especially the two deeper lying midfielders.
This gives you an idea of how key Luke and Sunny were against the Red Bulls this weekend. The orange triangles are recoveries of the ball and purple are shots blocked. It's so easy for one of those plays to go wrong and give away a penalty or catch a card when you're in that role, which is why it's there are only a handful of players who are so good at it.
If we lose a player or they take the foot off the pedal then the whole machine comes to a halt and we're going to struggle to keep going. I would like to see the return of Kyle keeping his cool, Luke keeping out of confrontations and Sunny keeping his focus for 90 minutes.
Changing the Guard
With a few days still to go before we hit the road and take a trip to Minnesota there's still chance for a head coach to be appointed and take the reigns quickly. Regardless of what happens, we urge to tinker is probably there and I say don't do it. The team is built to play this 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 whatever you call it and we shouldn't try force players into new roles.
Yes, I want to see Plata back in the middle teaming with Yura again but we don't have a player who could slot into a standard left midfield role in a 4-4-2 and if we played somebody narrow we don't have a left full back who can defend and attack in a 4-3-1-2.
There are other player places like this such as a true box to box central midfielders (we've got attacking and defending but nothing in the middle) and we couldn't dare play a three man back line in this state so swapping out everything right now wouldn't work. Whatever happens, whoever comes in has to make the system we have this season work and if they want to make changes do it in the post season when they can make some deal and build a squad around their philosophy.