As Real Salt Lake take the pitch against Orlando City SC tomorrow, they will be crossing the quarter mark of their 2018 season. What have we seen from the team so far? What do we like? What needs improvement? These are all questions that RSL will have surely talked over this past week in preparation for this game. Will their preparation result in walking away with a win? We can definitely hope so! What kind of things will the Claret and Cobalt need to do to pull out a win? Let’s talk about it!
Real Salt Lake
Last week’s game against Vancouver did result in a loss, but the way RSL played throughout the game brings a lot of positives to the table as well. I heard more than one person say that despite the loss, that was the best we had seen RSL play this year, and I don’t disagree. Our offense looked like it was actually functional! We took 18 shots, with 5 shots on frame that forced saves from Vancouver’s keeper.
The biggest difference to me though? According to the statistics from MLS, RSL completed 76% of their passes in the final third. This is a significant improvement from where they were towards the beginning of the season. It appears to be the second highest completion percentage game of the year, only behind the game two weeks ago against Colorado where we played a man up for 70+ minutes.
The bottom line of it is that our attacking players are adjusting to each other, and they are starting to get their creative juices flowing, much like we saw in the latter half of the 2017 season. We are still early enough in the season that if we can start to get things going now, we should be able to get quickly right back into the playoff mix with a few wins. I don’t think any tactical adjustments need to be made to our offense at this point, we just need to continue to be patient as it continues to develop.
Defensively, RSL gave up a PK and a tap in goal. The PK was a judgement call by the referee, and in the end we can’t say a whole ton about that. I am confident that NIck Besler will learn from that experience, and will perform better next week.
The second goal troubled me a little bit. I remember thinking that it was going to be a goal as soon as Davies got past Brooks Lennon, even though he was still 30+ yards from goal. I remember yelling at Brooks through the TV that he absolutely had to make the tactical foul there and stop the attack. Brooks is a sharp kid, and he is taking on the extremely difficult job of learning a new position very well thus far. I am sure that the coaching staff had a discussion with Lennon about this, and I am confident that he will do a better job in the future.
In the end, we have to remember that RSL also fielded one of the youngest back 4 lines in MLS history, if not the youngest in history. A few mistakes should probably be expected, and though they are going to frustrate us, we have to bear through them if we want to see these players develop and continue to get better.
Orlando City SC
Orlando City come into this game as one of the hottest teams in the league, as they have won each of their last five games after starting the season 0-2-1. How have they done it? Honestly, with nothing more than a lot of grit. 4 of their 5 wins have been 1 goal wins. They have thus far been able to do just enough of what needs to be done in order to produce the win. That being said, their season statistics are nothing to shake a stick at: They average 52.1% possession this season as well as a 79.6% passing completion rate. They also average two goals per game, having scored 16 goals in their 8 games so far this season.
What is RSL going to have to do in order to keep Orlando in check? First off, Glad and Besler are going to have to deal with the physical play of striker Dom Dwyer. He is well known for his tough play and his ability to poach goals, making him a handful for any centerback pairing to handle.
Then, the Claret and Cobalt are also going to have to deal with the attacking trio of Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, and Chris Mueller, who combine well with Dwyer to make some very dynamic attacks. Meram is a known goal-scorer in MLS, and Mueller is quickly showing that he will be as well. The RSL back line is going to have to have a great game if they hope to slow down what has been a very active Lions attack in the last several weeks.
The good new for RSL is that Orlando has also conceded 13 goals so far this season. They do give you opportunities to score, and if RSL can continue its improvements on offense, they should get at least a few good looks on goal.
DF: Lennon, Besler, Glad, Ruiz
MID: Beckerman, Kreilach
MID: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata
RSL’s keys to the match
- Match Dwyer’s Physicality. If Justen Glad and Nick Besler can control Dom’s play and make him a non-factor in this match, Orlando will have to find other avenues to attack through, which should slow them down.
- Continue to develop the attack. We need to see RSL be able to break teams down and score on them even when they are defending in a block. If RSL starts to prove that they can do this, then teams will be forced to play them differently, which will then lead to even more RSL goals.