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The Salt: How will RSL replace Rusnak?

It’s an easy answer for me this week.

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a little weird being back in the playoffs, especially because everything seems so — well, calm right now.

Maybe that’s because I’m visiting friends in Seattle ahead of the Northwest Chocolate Festival, and all these trees and whatnot make things just feel a little more relaxed.

We could muse about tactics, but we’ve seen enough from our coach to know what we’re going to get. We’ll talk about that, still, but you know, it’s just not the most intriguing thing.

We know mostly who’s going to play, save a couple question marks. We’ll talk about those, too. Let’s just get started.

Tactical shifts?

So, I think we need to define what we’ve been doing tactically.

Here’s the problem, though. Our tactical approach has been fairly rudimentary when we’re at our most successful. We tend to follow a few points in the attacking half of the field:

  • Attack down the flanks, especially with the full backs
  • Attack with four players at almost all times
  • Pressure the center backs on the ball to attempt to win a turnover

Can we shift away from that? I don’t know that we will try, let alone that we’re really capable. These are fundamental things about the way we play, and abandoning those now would be unwise.

The thing that has primarily shifted is our stance inside that framework. We are either more focused on attacking or more focused on defending — and generally, when we pick a side, we do alright. But I do think we struggle when we have to switch on the fly, which I’d reckon is why we’ve had so many blowout losses on the road.

Perhaps luckily for us, we need to start with a more attacking mentality and stick with it. If we win, we’re in, and that’s literally all it takes. Also, if we draw 2-2, we’re in. But we can’t take an all-out attacking mentality, because if we do, we’ll find ourselves on the wrong side of the scoreline fast.

Replacing Rusnak? It’s an easy choice.

This is the hot topic today. Albert Rusnak’s absence — thanks, yellow card accumulation — forces us to figure out a replacement for him. While we could hem and haw about players to slot in his place, I’m pretty sure we’ll just take the normal approach: Drop Damir Kreilach into the midfield, then replace him at the forward spot.

That spot, I think, goes right to Corey Baird. He and Kreilach have played well together, and it keeps Baird in the starting lineup. It’s something I think he has shown he deserves, which is remarkable, really. Our other option is likely Luis Silva.

I don’t know that it’s the best approach, but I do think it’s a solid one. Kreilach has been at his best when he’s playing deeper than other attackers and either (a) making a late run or (b) staying around the edge of the box. Now, he can still be in those positions if he’s playing more in a midfield role, but defenders will pay different attention to him.

Anyway, yeah. This isn’t a tough decision for me. It also shouldn’t change too much about the way we play — and in some ways, I think it might actually support it a little better. We’ll see, though.

Now, we can’t really replace his skillset. He’s a magical player, and he has a knack for doing the unexpected, even when he’s not making a huge difference in the game before said unexpected point. That’s the really hard part.


I don’t really have too much else to say about the game. It’s all hanging in the balance, and we know what we have to do.

As for extra-curriculars, the big thing is that I’m in Seattle this weekend for the Northwest Chocolate Festival. If you haven’t noticed, I eat a lot of chocolate. I’ll talk more about it on Monday, hopefully to finish up a column about how we’re going through to the Western Conference Final. That would be nice.

Let’s see what’s out there.