Real Salt Lake’s run of form hasn’t quite put them out of playoff contention, but it’s sure close. If they’re going to turn it around, they need to learn some things from USL’s winningest team — and that team just so happens to be very closely related to RSL: Real Monarchs.
On Tuesday, I talked about some of the players from Real Monarchs that have really made that team work, and I think their roster construction has been a largely successful strategy. Obviously enough, constructing an MLS roster is an entirely different approach, so we won’t talk about that. But we should talk about how Real Monarchs got where they are, and what RSL can do to implement some of that successful approach.
Obviously, there’s not a one-to-one relationship here, and you can’t just implement the same thing overnight. But some of the principles are the same, and I’m certain RSL coach Mike Petke’s working on just that.
When you watch Real Monarchs, it’s eminently clear that everyone on the team is playing with confidence. I know that seems like a cliche, and it is — but when you see an RSL player hesitate and a Monarchs player be certain, that should clue you in to that simple fact.
I’d like to see RSL continue to play confidently in possession and out of possession. When we get the ball, don’t lump it forward — be confident in your ability to maintain it, and be confident in the players around you in that, too. And that plays perfectly into my next point, so let’s move on quickly here.
Be a team again
When you read about Real Monarchs, you are fairly consistently bombarded with stories about some card game they play. That’s a cool story, but the important thing isn’t the card game (at least, not until Daniel Haber sells it to a game publisher or something) — it’s that they’re spending time together, and that’s leading to a positive outcome on the field.
It’s not even that it’s a tangible thing that you can see on the field — at least not easily when it’s not present. You don’t just look and say, “Hey, it’s missing.” But the best RSL teams got along famously off the field — and not all the time, of course, and not even every player with every other player. That’s not the point of this.
Instead, it’s that you need to be able to trust the players around you, and they need to trust you. When they trust your decision-making off the field, they should tend to trust it on the field. I mean, if you’re a good enough player, that is. Whatever happens, I don’t think every player needs to join in some giant circle and chant #RSLFamily until they pass out. They just need to embrace the fact that they’re a team, and they’re stuck with each other. At least until July. Which...
Don’t be afraid to change
I actually think this is well in-progress, and we’re likely to see some players leave and some players join when the transfer window opens next month. One of the things Real Monarchs have done is to accept that change is happening and embracing it — and sure, part of that’s the purpose behind the team. They need to explore talent rapidly and find the best they can to benefit RSL.