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Three things RSL can improve after 5-1 loss to LAFC in home opener

There were shades of 2017 as Real Salt Lake fall heavily to an expansion team once again.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Straight after the game I wrote down a couple of opening paragraphs for this weeks three things that came across like I was reacting to Skeletor arriving in the Rio Tinto and kidnapping Kyle Beckerman himself. 24 hours removed from the game, I’ve had more time to sit back and think, had time to watch the press conferences and see the reactions from everyone involved in US Soccer. At first it seemed to me and a number of us that the game was a continuation of the same issues we’ve had year in and year out for a while now but after watching what little Mike Petke had to say, I’m starting to think that it’s actually a whole host of new issues that we need to deal with!

After a hot off season and a good opener, here’s three things we need to do better after LAFC thrashed us.

Winging It

Last week I highlighted the peril of playing with high wing back and how wider, fast teams can exploit that space and it seems like that part of the message didn’t get through to anybody. While Dallas squandered most of their chances, LAFC was ruthless with their finishing and we paid a heavy price for that. Whatever style of play we are going for this season we need to ensure that the back line is suitably protected when wingers roam forward. Either our central midfielders need to drop deeper to allow the CB pairing to spread wider or the midfielders themselves need to spread wide to cover the space opened behind.

Looking at the image above, which is the RSL defence and Mid vs LAFC attack and mid, you can see here that LAFC kept the ball away from our hotzone, the high defensive line and instead spread the ball around the whole pitch and just waiting for space to open behind us, especially behind Demar Phillips. They knew we would attack them and they just waited for us to over commit to exploit us.

Basically, we picked the wrong plan tactically for this game. We wanted to exploit their weak defence and they knew we would, so they waited for us to then used the space behind. Nothing more or less than that.

Threading the Needle

LAFC put us under a tremendous amount of pressure in the middle of the park and left no space to play the ball. So many times while trying to play out of the back the passing lanes evaporated as white shirts surrounded us and it made passing so hard. As with last week, we sat so deep in midfield that we couldn’t rely on shorter passing to get the ball forward however our longer passing was woeful thanks to the pressure put on us. Looking at the Boxscore, the green passing lanes are all short, lateral passes whereas the red failed attempts are longer and more vertical balls. If our midfield is going to sit deep then they have to pass with length better, if we’re going to pass shorter then our players need to move more.

Inside Out

Plata has been given the licence to roam a little in the left wing position, cutting inside and causing an imbalance on the wings with Savarino. It’s a nice idea and it causes the opposition to make a hard choice, close Plata down and open space up or leave him and invite a shot on goal. I like it and it should work but what’s happening is Plata is cutting in and then trying to take the shot and people are doubling up on him to stop him. He’s deadly but there needs to be a tweak to how he is playing to really unlock his benefit to the team. Get some to move around him to open the space for him or have him play the ball into the space he creates.

Tweet of the week right here:

Oh how we laughed, which was all we can do really. We’re a team with potential but as exciting as that is potential doesn’t always help you in the immediate sense. There’s a need for a prime player in this team, somebody who is in that elite bracket in the outfield to give everybody that bar to reach and it’s obvious to most.

Special shout out to the Univision announcers on Twitter for not hiding their blatant bias for LAFC, their unabashed confusion about the rules of soccer and the fact they took 8th grade Spanish so they could learn to roll their R’s. That’s the most exotic David Horst’s name has ever sounded.

This is a team that needs a win to undo some of the damage done with this game. We welcome Petke’s old team NYRB to Utah next week, let’s hope for an improvement.