The common theme of this series I've been running since the start of this season has been that there is so much RSL can do better after each game. So far, there is only one area that we've improved on drastically since that opening draw with Toronto and that's post-match press conferences. Mike Petke must genuinely think he's on WWE Monday Night Raw, because he's calling people out all over the place and delivering some devastating quotes, and this makes me so damn happy.
But this is what can we do better, and I think Petke has already given us an idea of what he's going to be wanting to do better. It's refreshing to have that level of transparency, to know what players are being graded on by the coaching staff so that we can see where we feel the good and bad are and if we have faith that Petke and co are making the right choices by our estimations.
Petke made some big statements in his press conference, but the overarching theme seems to be that the players just aren't playing at a level that is expected of them — and I think that's fair. He talked about "Having guys have some guts" and how Luke Mulholland was somebody who "worked his ass off" in the last game. Motivation is one of those intangible things that you can't really measure but rather you know it when you see it and stats really don't help with this. All the stats you'd think would show that Salt Lake were playing with motivation don't. We had more shots, more passes, more touches and an equal number of tackles against Dallas, and yet we never looked like we were going to win the game. This is why stats sometimes lie, and while we had a good number of everything, we didn't do anything with it and Dallas made us pay by making what they were given count. That, to me, is motivation. Make everything count so that if you're going to pass, pass the ball where it needs to be and not where is easiest to. Shoot when the chance is there, not just because you're feeling like the fans need to see a shot.
I think what stood out to me was the positioning of players, who was chasing down the ball and who wasn't. There were a few instances of this in the match but I've gone and grabbed three from the highlight package, and I'll show them below:
So the top image is showing our defensive positioning on a Dallas chance. We're 4 on 4 here but the ball slips through so fast. That's because you've got two guys tracking back in two different directions (Wingert covering the back and Schmidt chasing the man) while others cover one man playing the ball. That's not organised defending, that's marking the guy close to you because he's there. Schmidt is trying to do the right thing here but everybody else I don't know where you are.
Secondly, this is another Dallas chance and it's another instance of just standing around. There's two Dallas players with wide open space here while every man is wandering in the box. The ball comes in it's not even close to a defender before two shots are fired at us with Wingert saving on the line.
Lastly, this is a rebound chance after a Mulholland shot. Yura doesn't even move for the ball and Rusnak makes a set forward before moving to the ref to yell at something. That's the kind of chance everybody should be scrambling to get to.
How much do these guys want it? Are they ready to be switched on and in the right mindset for 90 minutes every weekend? If they aren't, they shouldn't be out there. I don't know how I can say that in a more constructive way.
Another Petke quote is that he hates the "4-3 whatever". It's not his, and it was handed to him. I am with you Petke, I hate it too, and so it's good to hear we've got a formational shift coming. I actually think Bofo and Lennon going to the U-20 camp has given him the chance to do this because you can't not play those two when they are here but I'll take it. At NY he played a 4-3-3, but he is on record saying he doesn't like formations but rather starting points. It sounds like he will want very fluid football from this team with everybody attacking and defending as a group. I could see 4-2-2-2 being used here, with new loanee Jefferson Savarino getting a start with Rusnak on the other side, leaving Luke and Sunny in the CM slot and Plata/Yura up front (assuming Plata's disciplinary issues are not going to linger) and I'm fine with that. Either way, a change is well welcome.
Why is Omar Holness sitting on the bench when Plata is not performing? Why is Velazco not getting on the field when Yura can't hit a barn door with a banjo? Where is Reagan Dunk while Wingert is getting minutes constantly? Are those Holness, Velazco and Dunk better than Plata, Yura and Wingert? No, No and Possibly, but when those three aren't performing it's not going to make the squad worse! What happened when Bofo and Lennon got a chance? They took it. Holness took his chance in pre-season and showed why he was drafted as high as he was by Real Salt Lake. Velazco turned many heads too with his lively display and Dunk had a 20 minute YouTube series about how he was perfect for the team yet hasn't had a minute. Give a chance to some new faces. The worst is we don't move the needle because we're already that bad. The best is that a young crop of players take the chances given to them and give Petke a reason to keep them in the squad while letting the veteran players sit out their poor form periods.
My brother supports New England because he's a Patriots fan and likes to chase glory and bring shame to my family. So I really hope RSL turn it around so I don't have to be taunted by a Revs fan again.
It will be interesting to see how far the players can push Petke before he calls somebody out by name. He's come closer to doing it each week and it's clear he knows who isn't performing. The injury list will be an good one to see too as who knows who we will have available to us! But, you know what they say. Some things in life are bad, They can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble, give a whistle! And this'll help things turn out for the best...