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Tactical Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes

As RSL come back from the World Cup break, will they be able to continue their good home form against the struggling Earthquakes?

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After having a week off due to the World Cup, Real Salt Lake is back in action tonight! The San Jose Earthquakes are in town for their first meeting of the 2018 season. What might we expect to see from this game and what will it take for RSL to earn another win? Let’s jump in and look at a few thoughts!

Real Salt Lake

In their last game, RSL went to LA and lost 3-0 to the Galaxy despite having better numbers in most statistical categories, including overall possession, shots, and passing percentage. Nevertheless, they are still currently sitting in a playoff position and tonight have a home game against the struggling San Jose Earthquakes. The Claret and Cobalt have been much better at home than they have been on the road, so I expect them to come out and win this game, and look semi-decent doing it.

The biggest thing Mike Petke still has to figure out is exactly what he is going to do with the midfield. I think he has clearly seen that the Beckerman-Kreilach pairing does not work, and I don’t think that he will go back to that. In the LA game Petke elected to go with Kreilach and Sunny in the midfield, and obviously that didn’t work out the best. It seemed to me that they kept getting in each other’s way a lot. Check out this heat map from that game:

LA team heat map vs Kreilach and Sunny’s location, 06/09/2018

On the left is the heat map of the entire LA side. You can clearly see that LA spent a lot of time attacking down their right hand side. And then there is the map on the right, which is the heat map of Sunny and Kreilach’s location during the game. The map on the right shows that first, Sunny and Kreilach were both playing mostly on the same side of the field, close together. Secondly, it shows that they spent most of their time almost right where the dark hole in LA’s map is. It appears to me as if LA was simply playing around them, and they didn’t do a whole lot to stop it from happening.

Based upon this, I’m betting that we see a Beckerman-Sunny midfield pairing tonight against the Earthquakes. It might just be a straight swap with Kreilach on the bench, or maybe we will see more of a midfield shakeup further up the field as well.

San Jose Earthquakes

San Jose come into this game with a record of 2-9-4, good for 10 points and 11th place in the Western Conference. The Earthquakes typically play in a flat 4-4-2 formation, with seemingly ageless striker Chris Wondolowski leading the attacking line along with high producing number 9 striker Danny Hoesen, who have combined together for 13 goals and 6 assists.

San Jose’s biggest struggle this season has been their defense. Through the 15 games they have played so far they have conceded 31 goals. They are pretty open at the back and will give RSL opportunities to score.

On the flip side, their offense is still doing pretty well, having scored 24 goals in those 15 games. RSL’s back four are going to have to stay engaged throughout the entire 90 minutes if they want to see out a positive result.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DF: Lennon, M. Silva, Glad, Acosta

MF: Beckerman, Sunny

MF: Savarino, Kreilach, Rusnak

ST: Baird

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Take advantage of scoring opportunities. RSL has done a pretty decent job of scoring at home, and they will have opportunities to do so against San Jose tonight. We have seen several games were Real have scored two or three goals, but it would be wonderful to see an offensive breakout where they hang 4 or 5 goal on a team.
  2. Be constantly aware of Wondolowski. Danny Hoesen might draw a lot of the attention as the leading goal scorer and overall offensive spark for San Jose, but Wondo has played for a lot of years and is the master at ghosting in and scoring from nowhere. Communication for the RSL backline is going to be key to earning a win and three points tonight.