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Tactical Preview: RSL vs New England Revolution

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Tonight’s matchup is RSL’s make or break playoff moment. How will they respond? And who will play where?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, here we go. As I sit down to write this article, there is about 8 hours until kickoff against the New England Revolution, and my nerves are already through the roof. Tonight’s game has a really familiar feel to me, and strongly reminds me of the Colorado game that ultimately ended our playoff hopes last season. Can RSL learn from their mistakes and sneak into the playoffs? Do they have the depth to be competitive and come out victorious in a must win game? What kind of play will we see from a team that is missing almost have of it’s first XI? Let’s jump in and look at a few things!

Real Salt Lake

There has already been a lot of coverage regarding the fact that RSL are missing several of their starting players through yellow card accumulation as well as international duty. Kyle Beckerman and Sunny are for sure out, and we are very unlikely to see Albert Rusnak, Joao Plata, and Jefferson Savarino as they all played two days ago and got back into town last night from Europe and the Middle East.

That leaves us in a bit of a bind as far as lineup selections go for tonight’s game. Luckily, we have multiple players that can play in multiple roles, so we should be able to fill out a decent lineup. The question becomes who exactly we will see where on the field. We will surely see Brooks Lennon, but will he stay at right back or move up to the wing? Will Damir Kreilach play the 6, the 8, the 10 or the 9? Will Nick Besler play centerback or defensive midielder? Those are some of the first questions that need answers. After we answer those questions, we can start to form the rest of the lineup around those positions. Today, I want to talk through the positions 1 by 1 to build this lineup. I’ll probably jump around a little bit, but I promise I’ll cover all of them. I am going to go in order of the likelihood that I believe a player will be on the field in the given position.

The first name I expect on the lineup sheet this week is Nick Rimando. There is no reason to expect that Nick won’t be playing tonight, and he has been the consistent starter for the team all season.

I think the next easiest decision for Mike Petke is Justen Glad at centerback. He has started all 32 games that RSL have played this season, and there is no reason that he won’t start tonight.

After that, things get more complicated, as I can see most of the rest of the positions being filled by multiple different players. I’ll do the best I can with those.

At right back, I believe we will either see Brooks Lennon continue in his role, or we will see Aaron Herrera come over to the right side should Brooks move up to the attack. More on that in a minute, but I am putting Aaron Herrera in at right back tonight on my team sheet.

To complete the centerback pairing, there are a few options. We will likely see either Nick Besler or Nedum Onouha here, as Marcelo Silva is still listed as questionable on the injury report. There have been some swirling rumors that Onouha has not played any significant minutes so far due to lack of fitness, but I, along with the RSL Soapbox staff, have not been able to find any foundation to these rumors. If Nedum is fit, I want to see him in the lineup.

At left back, we will either see Aaron Herrera or Danny Acosta. This one is pretty simple. If Aaron is on the right, then Danny is on the left. If not, then Aaron will be on the left. Moving on.

As we step into the central midfield, we look at two positions, the #6 defensive midfielder and the #8 box to box midfielder. At the #6, I think we are best served with Nick Besler playing there. We could also see Luke Mulholland or Damir Kreilach at the 6, though I think they are both in the discussion for the #8 slot. There is also a tiny chance that we see Danny Acosta at the 6, as that was his original position when he was brought up to the first team prior to being converted to a left back. My first choice at the 6 would be Nick Besler.

At the 8, we could see Damir Kreilach, Luke Mulholland, or possibly Pablo Ruiz. Due to Ruiz’ lack of consistency this season, I don’t expect we see him here. I would absolutely love to see Luke Mulholland out on the field, as he brings a tireless work rate that we seem to really miss sometimes. A lot of this is going to depend on where Petke decides to play Kreilach. If Kreilach isn’t the 8, then I expect Mulholland will be.

Moving into the attacking front four, there are a multitude of different options available. Let’s start with the #10, attacking midfielder. Possibilities for this position include Damir Kreilach, Bofo Saucedo, and Luis Silva. If Kreilach does play the 8, I would like to see Bofo play the 10. That is where he played when coming through RSL’s academy system, and he regulary did a good job of torching opposing teams from that position.

If Kreilach plays the 10, then we will see Bofo out on the left wing instead. I think he is for sure a lock to start this game, and his role will depend on what Kreilach’s role is. If Bofo is playing the 10, then my guess is we see Corey Baird on the left wing. On the right wing, I really hope that we get to see Brooks Lennon play there. If not, then I expect we see Luis Silva.

At #9 center forward, we could see Damir Kreilach, Corey Baird, or Luis Silva. I don’t think it’s very likely that we will see Damir, as I feel like his presence is going to be more needed in the midfield. It’s kind of a toss up between Corey and Luis, and really depends on how the rest of the team lines up.

Tactically speaking, I don’t think RSL is going to change too much of what they typically do at home: possess the ball, get it to the wingers and then look for runs from the center forward/midfield to connect in the box.

New England Revolution

The Revolution come into this game having already been officially eliminated from playoff contention this year. Thus far this season, they have accumulated 38 points courtesy of a 9-12-11 overall record, having scored 47 goals while conceding 51 in 32 games played. Notably, they have been poor on the road, playing to a 2-8-6 record away from home this season.

The Revs most recently came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation, which culminated in a 2-0 victory over Orlando. Regardless of what formation they come out in, it should be noted that the Revs do not typically hold onto the ball a ton away from home, averaging just 46% possession on the road. I expect them to come out, play deep and compact, and then look to break on the counter. Multiple teams have shown that as the blueprint for defeating RSL, so we will see how they execute this strategy.

Two Revs players to keep an eye on are forwards Christian Penilla and Teal Bunbury. They have scored 12 and 11 goals respectively for New England, so they are definitely players to be aware of at all times.

Expected Lineup

This is how I would line up based on the discussion above, but I would love to hear what everyone else thinks in the comments below!

GK: Rimando

DF: Herrera, Onouha, Glad, Acosta

MF: Besler, Kreilach

MF: Lennon, Saucedo, Baird

ST: Silva

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Find a lineup that puts the team in a position to win. Mike Petke has a lot of tough decisions to make, and he will surely feel largely responsible for picking an incorrect lineup should the Claret and Cobalt lose this game. The pressure is on Mike more than ever to make the correct decisions that lead to a winning result.
  2. WIN. Win, and your playoff destiny is still in your own hands. Anything else, and you have to rely on help from some of the poorer teams in MLS this season to make the playoffs.