Remember when Sebastián Jaime joined RSL and we all thought our troubles on the wing were over? And then when Jaime left we were all so hyped about “Burrito” Martinez and how finally our issues on the wing were over?! And then when Burrito decided he didn’t want to stay we all promised to never trust a winger again? I’ve officially decided that Jefferson Savarino is the actual answer we’ve been looking for!!!
Which means he will be sold at the end of the season of course.
But away from my paranoia, this win was actually a much bigger deal than is being said. Seattle are struggling that is for sure and are now winless in the last 5 games but last season they won the MLS Cup with 14 regular season wins. They have 11 right now with enough time to match that record still. They have retained much of the team that brought the cup home and have international calibre players all over the field. That Real Salt Lake beat them while not dominating the game as usual is a huge deal for a team that begun the season losing to Minnesota.
As luck would have it, we’re going to be facing another team who are in the skids despite being stacked with talent and pedigree in LA Galaxy so lets look at what we need to do a little better after Seattle.
Defensive positioning has been a troublesome issue for Real Salt Lake for a couple of years now and we can’t seem to work out where we want to be winning the ball. We’ve had some success defending high up the pitch and applying pressure in the middle of the field but when that fails we’re exposed. The response has been to come deeper and look for more direct balls through the wings and again to a degree that’s worked, especially as Acosta has come into his own and Savarino & Rusnak have begun to get into form. The issue with defending deep means we’ve had to rely on heroics or Nick Rimando which has hurt us an uncharacteristic amount so far. This time around we opted to defend higher up and it worked for us; a clean sheet for Nick and a contender for save of the week as The Wall managed to pluck the ball out of mid air to deny Clint Dempsey the start of a Sounders comeback.
That was the only chance Seattle had and the defensive positioning was a big part of that. RSL need to keep up the pressure high up the field against LA. Their lack of bite in the DM and the faltering Dos Santos is where we will find success.
Stretch it Out
It’s often called the beautiful game and soccer, at it’s best, is probably the prettiest sport in the world. Watching Real Salt Lake spray diagonal balls over 35 yards as defenders try and track back brings a pure giddy glee to me. It’s the same thrill I get when I know somebody is going to fall down and I just keep quiet and let it happen. Because I’m a bad person.
However Real Salt Lake have found a way to turn what was a blunt, hammerhead style attack of taking 20 chances to score one goal (if we’re lucky) into a piercing dagger of an attack that turned 12 shots into two goals. We need to do more a lot more of this as the season closes up. Goals mean wins and we need them bad.
Honestly, that’s it. I mean that. No jokes.
This series of articles started out as a product of our disastrous start to the season and I haven’t liked talking about how things have been bad because I am a fan and want the team to be doing well. We’ve agreed and disagreed as time has gone on but the things we’ve spoken about here, defensive work, lack of target man, poor finishing, have been resolved for now. Good teams can still lose and when RSL lose, it’s because the other team have been better rather than us making basic mistakes.
Real Salt Lake are positioned now to have done enough to deserve to be in the play offs. If we don’t make it now it’s going to be heartbreaking because there’s no better story in MLS than us right now. A team that was the worst in the league at one point are now on the cusp of a play off place. If Real Salt Lake won an MLS Cup in 2017 it would be a textbook fairytale season and I think if anybody deserves a happy ever after, it’s us.