Real Salt Lake’s win over LA Galaxy last night was simply one of the best things I’ve seen in 2017.
So while we’re sitting here basking in the warm glowing warming glow of six goals scored in one game, let’s talk about how we did it.
Compressing the field, pushing high
By means of illustration, when Real Salt Lake lost possession of the ball, they were generally entirely inside the opposition half. This meant they immediately got to work attempting to win the ball back, and several times, they had possession again after a quick tackle or interception.
Also by means of illustration, several times, we saw Justen Glad striding forward with the ball to make a smart pass to Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland or Albert Rusnak. That sort of thing was essential, and sure, it was only possible because LA Galaxy basically ceded the midfield to us. But we took advantage, and that was a big change.
By keeping our defense and midfield high up the field, we actually imposed our style of play on another team. Too often earlier this season, as well as last season, we played cautiously, afraid that pushing our defenders too high and making riskier decisions would have ended with us conceding a few goals — especially against LA Galaxy. And sure, that was a live risk last night, too. But we were smart about it, we worked hard, and we scored first. That made all the difference.
Aaron Maund’s stop
In the 15th minute, we very, very nearly gave up one of those classic Real Salt Lake goals — or, well, a 2017 original. Anyway, Emmanuel Boateng came screaming down LA’s left side, and he beat everybody, as he is wont to do. But Aaron Maund didn’t stop sprinting, and in the end, he got a foot to the ball and was able to clear it away before it crossed the goal line.
If we’d given up that goal in the 15th minute, I think it would be a completely different result. But Maund was there, so we’re here.
Seriously: This match had the potential to be another one of those long road losses. It was balanced delicately on a knife edge, and we tipped it the right way this time. I’m just so happy.
Whirring like a fine machine
For once, it really looked like everybody fully understood their role and put in the necessary shift to make that actually work. Yura Movsisyan didn’t rake in the touches, but he was everywhere he needed to be, taking chance after chance. It’s a little funny that Luis Silva’s post-facto suspension was one of the reasons he started, but he took full advantage. Good on him for his goal, too.
For once, it really looked like everything was going according to plan, even when it wasn’t exactly what we needed each moment. Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino were workhorses on the wing, Yura Movsisyan made the right runs, and Albert Rusnak returned from international duty with his feet on fire.
The adaptation of Savarino
He might be young and new, but Jefferson Savarino has immediately taken this team on his back — and not simply because he’s been asked to or anything like that. No, Savarino is the rare player that will shoot from anywhere with quality and accuracy, will follow a play, will harass a defender with the ball to provide high pressure — really, he’ll do everything exactly right. Here’s hoping we keep him for years to come.