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Five Quick Stats: RSL struggles against strong Atlanta side

Let’s take a look at five little snippets from RSL’s loss to Atlanta.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Mulholland’s passing left something to be desired

I know I can be critical of Mulholland sometimes, but in the last two games, I thought he was performing very well. Against Atlanta, it was anything but a continuation of that. His passing simply didn’t do what we needed. If he’s going to be the player that connects Albert Rusnak and Kyle Beckerman — and beyond — we’re going to need him to be considerably better in the midfield.

Interestingly, most of those successful passes came in a 20-ish minute span of time, which feels unusual. Here, check out the timeline graphic from MLS Soccer:

You’ll see that he’s doing well with his passing for a period, and then performing poorly. But certainly, Mulholland shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame alone — there’s certainly a team component to that, too.

Rusnak targeted the final third

Here, we’ve got a look at Albert Rusnak’s passing into the final third — there are quite a few little blips there. Not every pass was successful, certainly, but we are starting to see what Rusnak can bring. He doesn’t have to be the furthest player up, and he doesn’t need to be the one in the box making plays. That’s actually where he’s starting to look the most different from his predecessor, Javier Morales.

RSL was shooting from deep

Take a look at this shot chart. On the left, you have Atlanta United’s shooting. On the right, Real Salt Lake’s. There are two major takeaways here:

  1. RSL took a number of shots from outside the goalkeeper’s area, indicating a willingness to shoot the ball. It led to our only goal on the night.
  2. RSL wasn’t able to take nearly enough shots in the box, whether that’s because of passing or because of a staunch Atlanta United defense.

Danilo Acosta only lost possession in the attacking half

One of the priorities for a full back should be to only cede possession when you’re attacking — giving up the ball inside your own half is a recipe for disaster. But there’s another thing here, too: Acosta lost possession four times, and three of those came from losing possession after a tackle.

Interestingly, though, five times, Acosta intercepted the ball, and only one of those times came in the attacking half. The team may have given up three goals — none of which they were forced into — but Acosta wasn’t really involved in any of those incidents. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite RSL players to watch.

RSL’s defenders were the only players to register a clearance

Both WhoScored and agree: No Real Salt Lake player outside of the defense cleared the ball. That’s a truly remarkable stat, because I guarantee, that doesn’t hold up at the start of the season, and it doesn’t hold up at any point last year. (I mean, maybe it did in certain matches, but that’s not the point.)

This isn’t wholly indicative of Mike Petke’s plans, but it’s an interesting look at what he’s trying to build: A side that doesn’t just clear the ball when it comes near them. That’s a very welcome change, and I don’t know that our concessions against Atlanta were a result of it.