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Inside the Six: The Clone Wars

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High scores, high presses, and a debut from Danny Boy: We’re talking about the last week in RSL.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

RSL vs. Vancouver

For what feels like an eternity, Real Salt Lake has indicated that they would like to play an aggressive, high pressing style. However there hasn’t been any indication of this on the field, as the team has typically lined up somewhat deep and conceded their opponents’ own half to them (This is not a high press. This is a low press. Or in some cases this season a “run around with your hair on fire and hope something good happens” press). Enter Vancouver’s heat map from Saturday.

When most of your opponents touches are inside their own box, you are doing something right with your pressure. RSL’s front line ran roughshod over Vancouver’s defenders and created some turnovers that led to great chances that really needed to be finished. Due to the quality we have along the front line, those chances will be finished as we create more of them, which we should now that the right system is in place.

Colorado vs. RSL

While RSL has struggled to develop an identity, Colorado seems to have given up on theirs. Just over a week ago the Rapids traded away their captain Sam Cronin and veteran outside back Marc Burch in order to free up some funds for a more attack minded signing this summer. The two were part of the league’s best defense last year that allowed only 32 goals and had Colorado one win away from Supporter’s Shield glory. How did that defense fare following the trade?

Not great. They lost 3-1 and the defense was repeatedly slashed open like a fruit ninja cantaloupe by a Sporting team that had only mustered two goals in their first four games. The sequence on the above goal looked very similar to a few of our counter attacks against Vancouver, and while Colorado may eventually be better for this trade that day seems a little ways out. This is a golden opportunity for RSL to snatch a road win against a team in transition.

Orlando vs. LA Galaxy

I know Orlando was featured here last week, but Kreis’ new team keeps rolling, and the television keeps putting them on. The boys in purple toughed out a 1-0 win over NYRB last week and LA got a much needed 2-0 win against Montreal at home. Alessandrini is well worth the watch, and you’ll see some familiar geometric shapes from Orlando. #diamondsareforever

Sweater Watch

Though the heavy overcoat made it difficult to determine if Mike Petke was wearing one of his iconic sweaters, we can assume beyond reasonable doubt that he was. A) because I’m not sure he ever actually takes one off and B) RSL needs something to rally behind, a talisman that portends good things to come. Thus a sweater is no longer only a sign of imminent demise, but can also be a token for good. This week we saw some promising trends from RSL.

This week’s Sweater Watch stat is simple. GOALS. We scored them. Three of them. Against the other team. In particular the somewhat maligned Yura Movsisyan scored one, bringing his season total to three. This puts the Armenian Bear on pace for 20.4 goals this season, which would’ve put him at third in the golden boot race each of the past two years. Our DP striker is doing just fine.

Mailbag

WE DID IT! I received four mailbag questions this week and as a token of my gratitude I’ll answer them all, though two will be combined because they touch on similar things.

At what point does MLS start acting like one of the top tier leagues and keep their players for league games? -RSLMountainMan (I condensed this a little, if you’d like to see the full question check out last week’s comment section)

There are three points of view that matter in these decisions: The individual player’s, the club team’s, and the federation’s. Any two of these outweigh the other. Our guys going to the CONCACAF Cup was great for our club’s exposure, great for the players involved, and good for the federation. Glad’s injury was unfortunate, but could’ve happened in SLC too. Overall that tournament was a win for everyone.

The upcoming U-20 World Cup is a different story, mainly because of the current state of the team. For the club it makes sense to retain Glad and maybe a wing if Allen is still out, but even then, if Glad is wanting to go and the Fed wants him, he should go. I know that doesn’t quite answer everything, but feel free to discuss more below.

Rusnák has a goal and three assists now this season. What can we expect from him this season, best case scenario? -@D_Ricky1

High end? 33 goals, 54 assists, then we take some of his DNA, clone him, and make a Rusnak army that rules MLS for years to come.

Maybe more realistically I think in the range of 5-8 goals and 11-15 assists would be a really solid season.

How did the tactics differ under Petke? Granted it's one game and the snow changed the approach. -@MagmaRider

Scored 3 goals. Is this what Dunny (& others) predicted - time for attack to gel? Or was it the snow? 3-man backline? What? -@soccerstuey

Things really came together Saturday, in a way that makes you wonder what has been happening for the past 8 months or so. In addition to the point above about the high press, it comes down to a couple things.

  1. The opponent- Vancouver came off a tough midweek game and was looking to steal some points on the road. They missed a few guys and rolled out a new formation. They’re also not a great team to start with. But these are exactly the types of games we need to win.
  2. Shape. Look at the player positions below. Plata cut in more and played level with Movsisyan (he was dropping way too deep all preseason/early season). Lennon was high and wide on the right, providing an outlet for counters. Mulholland pushed up higher and Beckerman was the lone shield in front of the defense, giving each clear cut roles. Movsisyan was certainly not isolated. Despite playing the 4-3-3 for a while, we’ve never really known how we want to play it. Petke gave the team more defined responsibilities, played to their strengths, and trusted them to do what they do best. It worked.

Quote of the Week

This was from a pregame interview with the new RSL boss, and tells a lot about how Petke views youth and the development of young players. It’s important to remember that in between Petke’s two MLS head coaching gigs, the only jobs he took (and there were definitely other offers) were A) NJ Youth Director of coaching and B) the Real Monarchs. Dell Loy Hansen has stated that they were looking for a developer of talent in their next coach and we’re already beginning to see what the Sweater Savant brings in that area.

Alright, what’d I miss? Stay and kick it in the comments below!