Will Johnson took his time to make Real Salt Lake pay for trading him in 2012 due to salary cap issues. I was very firmly of the opinion that it was a choice that we'd regret and I think five years, two MLS-All Star appearance and one MLS Cup win show that maybe we should have kept him around. There's a few issues we need to fix at the RioT but the pressing ones are the most tangible ones.
So far, Real Salt Lake have taken 264 shots at goal in total, on target, off target or blocked. The return on that is 17 goals and a -21 goal difference, which is a conversion rate of 1 goal per 15.5 shots. There's one team with a worse conversion rate than us, which is DC United at 16.1 shots per goal, which they've actually offset by conceding fewer goals. We've conceded 38 goals so far, with only Minnesota being worse than us at 41. So questions of identity or play style or these abstract concepts, which do have importance, need to be secondary at this point, and our need is obvious.
We need players who can perform at this level.
We're ten goals short of the most goals in a season record. That is, most goals by a single player and by we I mean the whole team. That's not an enviable position to be in and while I know we will score enough goals to beat that it's still a worrying thing. I've been talking for some time about how Yura just isn't working for us, and I can only apologise if it came over as me saying he isn't good, period. He's just not the guy to work with this group of players or in this system right now. There's no real backup in this spot, with Silva having to play as a makeshift striker, and he's done an good job, but he's not a striker we can build a winning season on, and so, somehow, from somewhere, we need to work out how to score goals without a striker who can score consistently. Plata is giving his all on this front, so I'm hopeful we can find a way to get him, Lennon and Rusnak all working together to contribute. This is why you ideally want a "Target Man" type striker who can use physicality to hold the ball up, draw players out of position and move the ball into the space made. We don't have that now, so I don't have a ready solution for this. If I did, Petke would have probably worked it out long before me!!
I appreciate there's only so many ways I can write the same thing over and over again, but I can't not say this right now. We're bad defensively, and there's seemingly no combination of players that can fix this. Justen Glad came back and looked to provide a lot of solidarity on the back line, but by his own admission he said it wasn't his best day. I actually thought David Horst would have a calming affect, and maybe he will when he's had a few games, but it wasn't great from us. Our wings are looking very thin right now. We no answers at right back and Acosta is struggling to find form. I'd like to see him play left back and Reagan Dunk get another chance. He's one of our prospects, and giving him 5-6 games to see if he can contribute won't harm at this point.
Truth be told, I'd like to see a formation with three at the back. Horst, Glad and then a rotating CB to find the right pairing might help us out with keeping a clean sheet but we'd have to work out who is riding the bench to make room for another defender. I don't think anybody has a safe job right now so perhaps making a bold change is needed?
OK, so on the open play chances we're not doing great but we're still getting set pieces with regularity. If we're having shots blocked then we're getting corners (in theory). From set plays we're not beholden on strikers linking up with passing play, we just need to have routines we can run to score goals. Making the most of those plays and getting goals off them would be a welcome boost to a squad struggling for goals. I would like to see these chances taken and not squandered while we get together all the pieces that will make up the Petke Salt Lake era.
I don't know what I can add at the end of this. In 10 days we're opening what might be the most important transfer window of Real Salt Lake's history to my mind. Never before have I seen a team so desperate for a makeover, but thankfully, so set on doing it. Mike Petke is a strong leader and knows what kind of a challenge he is facing right now and I think the targets he is identifying will make things better for us in both short and long term ways. I think we'd be fools to think that the whole back office isn't already thinking about the off season, the draft and the window that's opened then in terms of contracts retained and people moving on. I'll always believe but I'm not saving any days holiday for the playoffs right now. Right now, I'll settle for a win against LA next week!