As would typical this time of the year, you’re probably here expecting us to talk about playoffs some more. It’s what we’ve been doing for some time now, but with every week, it looks further away.
With this two-game home stand, winning twice should be our bare minimum requirement from Real Salt Lake. That alone wouldn’t be playoff material, but we have something to prove to Real Salt Lake fans under Mike Petke.
After three years of struggling at the end of the season, it’s time to show that we can finish strong. Our start and our middle periods were filled with real issues, but results now would help start 2018 on the right foot, and it would help to give us something to hold on to during the too-long offseason.
We can’t subsist on transfer rumors alone, as we’ve done over the last two winters. We need sustenance, and that comes from positive play, exciting matches and a renewed faith in the people leading this club. We’ve been without it for far too long.
With that in mind, here are five things we need to see this week from Real Salt Lake.
Score some goals
We’ve been profligate with our chances, and that leaves us too often vulnerable to a quick counterattacking goal. If we’re going to feel at all good after the next two matches, we need to fix our issues in front of goal.
See, it would be one thing if we were struggling to create chances. We’re not — at all. Despite our scoring at a reduced rate, we’ve been lucky to see a team that is absolutely purring in the attacking half of the midfield.
Keep the ball
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, when you give up possession cheaply, you’re going to put yourself in a bad position in extremely short order. That’s a sure way to end up behind the play, and it’s actually more of an issue now than it would have been a year ago.
See, we’re playing an extremely proactive game now, getting our players forward at key moments. We’ve seen that pay dividends of a sort, with our attack at arguably its most creative since at least 2013, though I did note above that we’re not scoring the goals we need. But when you’re further forward and you lose the ball, the risk is greater, and, well, yeah. You get the idea.
Find the development balance
It’s difficult as a coach to figure out how exactly you should balance playing young players and mixing in some veterans, and it’s probably one of those things you can never find a perfect balance on. But as we continue through the rest of the season, it would be nice to see us continue to strike that fine balance.
Does that mean starting Danilo Acosta at left back instead of Chris Wingert? Maybe so. But we also need to make sure players like Acosta are surrounded by players who can help shepherd them through a match. It’ll make a big difference in their careers.
Figure out what’s next with Yura Movsisyan
This has been the question we’ve all been asking ourselves over the last four months — really, since Mike Petke took over — and it’s whether Movsisyan is really the way forward for this club. That question has been muddied somewhat by a very strong tactical case for including Luis Silva, and it’s further muddied by Silva actually doing quite well.
We can — and should — certainly try to improve during the offseason, but we’ll want to take a long, hard look at our top-dollar striker. The remainder of this season will be as big a test as any. This week, let’s look for a goal or two from Movsisyan.
They’re still in this thing
I know, I know. It’s both a long-shot and I said I wouldn’t talk about it. Luckily, I don’t have to. Here’s RSL general manager Craig Waibel today on RSL’s official radio show-podcast-thing, OnFrame:
We have every opportunity, we have five games at home — those 15 points are nearly essential. We certainly need to take advantage of the games we have and the teams we have in front of us. San Jose is one of those teams. Wednesday is where we start talking about a little of pressure, a little bit of must-win. The players aren’t naive. They’re not blind to the fact of the table. They understand the situation pretty clearly as well.