Over the last few months there’s been much debate on the future of Yura Movsisyan not only within MLS but in the footballing world. A strained relationship with the head coach, a less than impressive string of performances on the field and swirling rumours of his departure, the off field headlines have been far more interesting than the on.
In all the discussion, including my own, there have been two options. Either Yura becomes the starter we needed before Luis Silva turned on the style or he leaves to make room. Two ends of the scale. One option that hasn’t been talked about it Yura finding a new role to play in the squad and the immediate job that comes to mind is the role that Devon Sandoval once played for an RSL 2013 MLS Playoff run and one that one MLS player is famed for.
Enter: Alan Gordon
His famed late game theatrics have won points and plaudits from everybody. Since 2011, nobody has scored more stoppage time goals than Alan Gordon. His ability to arrive in the box just at the right time and use his physicality to bully tired players gives him all the talents needed to be the blueprint “super sub” most teams need.
Yura may not have the size, but his late goal against San Jose punctuates one of those skills you’d look for in a clutch player: he’s in the right place at the right time. If you go all the way back to the 18th of June against Minnesota you will notice Yura was on the pitch for only 20 minutes and yet managed to bag the game-winning goal.
Yura’s goalless streak was as much to do with the team as it was for him in the sense that it wasn’t just him that couldn’t score but it was everyone else suffering too. If you start at the Minnesota game, Yura has played 260 minutes of football and scored 3 goals which is good for a goal roughly 86 minutes. That’s pretty decent form for the striker, despite his WhoScored.com ratings being quite low. However, looking at the same number of games, he’s had on average 28 minutes a game on the field. We’ve got 6 games left in the season, which my all the my math means he’s got two goals left to score in the regular season, stretching to 3 or 4 depending on if we make the playoffs and how deep we go.
Gordon and Yura are very different players, but so are the teams they were in. At San Jose he was part of the famed Bash Brothers with Steven Lenhart and at LA he was grouped with Robbie Keane where both teams played with an unrelenting attacking mindset. Real Salt Lake don’t play that way in the Mike Petke era and instead play possession-based football, building up the play and releasing a fast attack in the final third. Yura still fits in this tactic regardless of his form and in this late stage could still be that clutch player. RSL is drilled to run teams into the ground and use their stamina and youth to just outrun the other team and take advantage of tired legs with decisive breakaways.
So as the game goes on and even RSL begin to slow down, Yura provides movement in the box and a target for crosses and through balls to hit. He can finish when he gets that service and he has the experience to keep a cool head unless he feels like sending a message with his celebration! We’ve seen this time and time again this season as the service continues for RSL but the finishing tails off. Before, it was natural finisher Yura being asked to run around and then a speedy Silva being asked to finish those chances. With the order swapped, Silva is free to play the game at the speed that benefits him while Yura is able to take advantage of tired players with his movement off the ball and experience in MLS.
So I think Yura could end up being a clutch player for Real Salt Lake in the next 6 games and it wouldn’t shock me if he got us a crucial goal in the hunt for a playoff place. The real question now is: Is that worth paying $2 million for? With the MLS Cup bonus being paid though the CBA at $275,000 it’s a hard sell but it’s a reductive way of looking at things when the mysterious nature of MLS makes it hard to know quite where the profit comes from! But I’d take a Yura Movsisyan 89th minute game-winner in any of the games we’ve got coming ahead if it means we’re one step closer to a playoff place.