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Three things to improve after a loss to Toronto FC

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After a poor game in Canada, has breaking point been reached?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

At some point in the middle of last year I wrote an article that, to some, was perceived as being very negative. This is a series where I have to look for the bad things, but I’ve never written anything with the intend of being negative.

Until now.

Tonight was the single worst performance I can remember seeing from an RSL team for a long time. We’ve lost by more before sure, we’ve choked in bigger games and even had bigger individual errors from players, but never has a collective performance from Real Salt Lake been so far away from the minimum of what is expected from an MLS team.

Defence

Justen Glad is a very talented kid, but he’s still a kid. He’s not the leader he will be yet and to expect him to be so is naive. Him and Silva are yet to gel and Silva isn’t good enough to be that leader either. I don’t even know if he’s good enough to be starting games to be honest with you. Barry or Horst need a shot to see if one of them can grab the reigns and lead the defence because we need a leader. Take a look at the Whoscored.com stats, specifically the touches made by Altidore, Giovinco and Delgado and their heatmap vs the heatmap of our defence. Check the MLS website and have a look at the key passes from TFC. Compare all of that data and it’s clear TFC continued to penetrate our defence. We can’t even keep a straight defensive line most of the time and instead leave holes to be exploited, which is what TFC and LAFC have done this season.

Also, I take it back, Lennon isn’t a right back. I was wrong. Don’t do that again.

Midfield

Where do you begin? Kreilach was a disaster today. Rusnak and Kyle were totally absent. The formation itself switches between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 but there’s no midfield in either of them. We’re split into two distinct units of attack and defence and having no link between the two is killing us. We talk often about how we are overstocked in the midfield but what we have is Kreilach, Beckerman, Sunny (defensive midfield players) Bofo, Hernandez, Rusnak, Silva (attacking midfielders) which leaves us with two pure central midfielders: Besler and Mulholland. Somebody has to link the defensive unit with the attacking 4. We can’t get the wing backs to do it, so we need that central connection.

Also, I’ve been careful with my words but I don’t see why everyone is hyped about Rusnak so far. He’s a great player for sure but he’s not done for us what some other DP players have done for other teams. He’s just there at this point. He’s neither the creative outlet (that’s Savarino for sure) nor is he reliably scoring goals (that’s nobody right now). Right now, he doesn’t make my first 11.

Attack

Plata is not a winger and I will fight everyone on this. He is a striker and playing him on the wing limits his ability to score and leaves us defensively short on that side. Silva is not a striker and we all know this, this experiment has to stop. Savarino needs a goalscorer like Baird to play with as the two linked up for a moment of brilliance tonight that showed the talent is there for this team. There’s no bite here at all and there’s no pace. Bofo needs to have a season with the Monarchs after turning over the ball and abandoning his defensive responsibilities.

There’s no actual build up play happening from Real Salt Lake because we’re disjointed when we get there. We’re wide on one side but narrow on the other. We’ve a striker who’s instinct it to play exactly like the attacking midfielder behind him so we end up with nobody in that poacher or target man role, just two deeper players. We signed a good striker with the physical attributes we needed in a hole where we have a space and we aren’t playing him.

Baird is legit though. Play him with Ortuno and we will get goals. Promise you.

Side note: Nick Rimando is like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4. He’s been the hero for so long and we love him with a passion but we’re all hoping he can survive the franchise to retire the hero rather than being killed off by his own passion for the city. I think that makes sense.


Mike Petke has promised he knows what the issue is and that it will be fixed. That’s a broad statement and open to interpretation. I hope he means it because this team is great on paper but poor in execution. For what it’s worth, here’s how I line up against Vancouver:

Ortuño dropping deep creates space for Savarino to push up. He also become the player who uses size to hold up the ball and moves it to guys like Besler and Ruiz who will move forwards. Beckerman screens the defence in the 6 role as always while Hererra and Phillips only push up when we lose possession to help win the ball back early, but never overlap with the wingers so we stay compact at the back.

Even if it doesn’t work, it’s so simple you can diagnose the issues much easier due to the simplicity. And hell what we are doing now isn’t working so why not.

I still believe in this organisation, this team, especially in the coach who no matter what can do no wrong. I know, somewhere in this team, is a winning side and it’s just buried beneath hype, beneath tired legs, beneath apathy and burnout. Now we have to dig deep and find that quality because we’re starting to look a lot like 2017 Real Salt Lake which is the last thing we need.