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Talking Tactics: A reflection in physics

A new season, but RSL still finds itself in 2016’s rut.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s only season meeting was filled with early season errors and choppiness, but lacked any goals. One of several 0-0 results around the league, preseason rust and lack of fitness (despite Salt Lake looking the more fit of the two sides) brought fans to their feet before releasing sighs of what could have been.

The Claret-and-Cobalt fell in line with the early season tradition, producing very, very slow and methodical play with limited success — more of a chess match than a soccer game.

RSL and the First Law of Motion

Despite the coaching staff hoping to transition into an era of full-field pressure, they played much like they did during last season’s opener. While most teams in the league produced more passes, RSL remained — yet again — eerily similar and despite their passing accuracy dropped by an astounding ten percent. This indicator could even point to a digression in some aspects of their game.

The Claret-and-Cobalt’s shot accuracy also took a nose dive from last season’s average, but remained consistent with the last two-month slump at the end of 2016. In fact, the club’s 17 percent shot accuracy is one of the worst under Jeff Cassar since he took over at the helm.

Against Toronto FC, inaccurate long balls produced shanked shots and too much time in possession attempting to open space was met with six blocked shots.

RSL, once again, lacked an identity on the pitch as they revolved around slow, precise and fast, relentless build-up. While changing the tactics on the pitch is always something a club should be able to do to turn the tide, Real never gave either a full-hearted opportunity as they would rotate between them almost systematically – something the Reds’ defense noticed quickly.

This type of rotational play style is not inherently a good thing, either, but it is a tactical trend worth remarking upon as Salt Lake attempts to find their lost identity.

Don’t let the preseason record distract you from the fact that this was RSL’s first competitive match of 2017 and they remain in the same place they left off last year.

It’s not an exact science, and things can go very wrong in the first match of the season, but RSL’s attackers are not being played to their strengths, and the club’s attacking momentum of early last year has been replaced with inertia. The coaching staff should go back to the drawing broad, reviewing Newton’s Laws after Week 1, and they might want to consider a change of formation – maybe, a 4-1-3-2.

Other tidbits to digest:

Most of the match was played in the middle third. Forty-seven percent of Saturday’s match was in neutral territory which the Sunny - Kyle Beckerman pair dominated. The two players combined for four times as many interceptions than their counter parts - Michael Bradley was the only Toronto midfielder to have a successful interception - and blocked just as many passes. The captain might be a year older, but he still has gas in the tank.

RSL conceded possession eight times in their defensive half and were almost punished in equal return. The club will have a lot of work ahead of them as they look to take more care in possession and stop any wayward passes, especially in dangerous areas.

Graphic courtesy of Who Scored.

The Claret-and-Cobalt’s defense is still finding success holding a high line, even against potent attackers like Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. When other clubs would opt for more defensive cover, RSL’s defensive corps’ defensive awareness frustrated the Reds on multiple occasions.

It might be early in the season, but I would think Beckerman’s pass has the potential to be the Pass of the Year: