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Why RSL looked competent against Manchester United

Mike Petke laid out a plan for his side. They followed it perfectly.

Manchester United v Real Salt Lake Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Pushing the full backs up

How many times against Manchester United did you see Tony Beltran, Demar Phillips or Danilo Acosta in the final third? I’d wager that was one of the bigger differences from what we’ve seen, though certainly we’ve been seeing it over the last two matches, too.

Mike Petke explained his take on pushing them forward:

I’ve talked about it since I took over, that I didn’t want to throw too much at the guys. It had to be a gradual step and a process, and the process came to a head right before the LA game where we really started pushing things. One of them was really getting our outside backs very high in the attack. So tonight, it was great to see the things that were in LA that were successful carried over against a team like Man United… is extremely important. And those were two big steps.

It’s always a risk proposition, pushing your two full backs forward. But if you’ve noticed that Tony Beltran looks renewed, and Demar Phillips looks like he’s where he’s supposed to be, that’s because they’re two players who are very good in the attacking half. Sure, Beltran’s not an expert crosser, but his ability to help build play on the wing is a differentiator.

We’ll certainly want to continue this, and I suspect Mike Petke wants to make it part of his identity.

The revitalization of Sunny

There was a time this season when Sunny looked, shall we say, out of his depth. That time has since passed. Against United, he was involved, his passing was excellent, and he absolutely looked like an important part of our midfield.

Does this mean he’ll get the start over Luke Mulholland? On the basis of this match, I’d think we’re leaning that way — the crispness of Sunny’s movement and passing would render him an excellent choice against Portland Timbers. For now, it’s really looking like we have multiple options we can use, and that’s a real positive. Too often either Sunny or Mulholland was in a spell of bad form. Maybe we’ll get them both in good shape for a bit.

The chances! The goal!

Oh man, the goal. Watch the highlights below if you like, then we’ll talk about that goal and our chances.

We repeatedly saw Jefferson Savarino and Joao Plata on the ball; importantly, they were always looking to involve Luis Silva. That wasn’t always because of his role as a striker, but because he’s clean on the ball and will look for a quick pass back to a rushing player. He fed Plata several times on opportunities, and that’s starting to become a theme.

Partly because he established himself as a player that would first look for a pass, he found himself in a position to score the opener — and that was certainly no easy finish. Had he been more goal-focused, he might have found himself being marked differently. It’s hard to say, really.

Final thoughts

Here’s a gem from Mike Petke:

You put a play down, a tactical plan down, and sometimes you don’t see it. But tonight, and LA and even against Orlando — in the last 3 games, I have seen huge chunks of what we talked about. That is a long answer to your question but to get back to your, it was key, it was vital. You play against a team like Man United who is physically more physically dominant over you, they are technical dominant over you, and there is no shame in saying that, so how do you in altitude try to take advantage of them? One and two-touch, side-to-side, getting them moving and hit them explosively on the counter and I think those are things we did incredible well tonight.