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Water Cooler Talk: Is the 4-3-3 the best look for RSL moving forward?

Matt Doyle says nobody knows anything. We’re with him on that one.

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

This past weekend, I attended a Folklore Conference at the University of Oregon, and as such was unable to make it to the match against Atlanta United. Although I have gotten used to avoiding news and highlights after we lose (there’s too much stress in all of our lives to go through that again) there are two good pieces that I read this weekend that I have drawn from for conversation fillers around the office.

One was the weekly Armchair Analyst, written by MLS writer Matt Doyle, and the other by a contributor, Alicia Rodriguez. (Editor’s note: Alicia Rodriguez is also the MLS League Manager for SB Nation. She’s great.) One thing that I stress on as I talk to my fellow co-workers is that this is not the RSL of the past. As much as I like the man, our problems started when we shifted formations to a 4-3-3. Although it seemingly made sense at the time, I don’t think that the team we had were ever willing to step up to the 4-3-3 formation, and I don’t think the team we have now is built for it. I am not saying that we need to go back to the diamond, but I am saying that this long ball, high press formation isn’t working.

One of the biggest flaws that I see in the 4-3-3 formation comes from having a midfield with Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, and Albert Rusnak playing, while leaving Luis Silva, Omar Holness, Sebastian Saucedo, and Jose Hernandez out. RSL has proven that their kids can play, and in Luis Gil, they have also proven that holding those kids results in losing them for little to no payoff (except monetary return that hardly seems worth the years they were here). Playing a formation that not only doesn’t suit the type of strikers we have, but also keeps one of our younger, more dynamic players from a starting position is starting to cost us crucial points against lowly expansion teams that we should beat. No disrespect to Minnesota or Atlanta, but we should have destroyed them. These are the types of games that keep teams out of the playoffs at best, out of the Supporter’s Shield run at worst, and we need to be better.

Another flaw is one that I mentioned above, our strikers aren’t getting it. I don’t know how many more times we have to sit through Yura getting dispossessed or Plata in no-man’s land before we sit down and say, “Hey, these guys should play off of each other in the middle!” Although I don’t think we can ever get to the rate that Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola produced in their early years, I think that we will see a much higher scoring rate than Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan are producing now.

I am not saying that we should go back to the Diamond, but I don’t see us getting the 4-3-3 to a point where we start to consecutively win more games (especially with the growing list of injuries to the backline) and I hope Petke sees it the same way; I still hold on to the game in Colorado as being the one we look back to and say “that was where things started to change,” but I have yet to see that change and hope it comes sooner rather than later.

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