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Tactical Preview: RSL vs. Colorado Rapids

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Can RSL snag the full three points against Colorado and wrap up the Rocky Mountain Cup early this season?

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, we will see Real Salt Lake back again at the RioT to take on their Rocky Mountain Cup Rivals, the Colorado Rapids. This game is important for a couple of reasons, as a win would give the Claret and Cobalt 3 important points against a Western Conference opponent. A win would also clinch the Rocky Mountain Cup for the team, something that they are always up for doing. What will we see from the two teams tonight, and how can RSL come out with a win? Let’s talk about a few points!

Real Salt Lake

Last week’s game against Minnesota United FC will be best remembered for Mike Petke’s postgame press conference rant, and for good reason. The RSL fanbase loves Petke, his passion for the sport and the team, and his willingness to stand up for his guys when he believes they have been wronged. Many fans will remember a similar rant around this time last year that really seemed to kick RSL into a higher gear for the rest of the season. Petke has once again backed his guys and showed his trust in them, and I believe that the team will respond positively to that, much as they did last year.

A big thing I will remember from the game last week is Joao Plata coming in and reminding us all in no uncertain terms what kind of quality he has as a player and the offensive spark he can bring to the team when he is feeling it. After he entered the game in the 66th minute, he immediately began terrorizing the Minnesota defense and almost singlehandedly brought the Claret and Cobalt back into the game. How did he do it? By being dynamic, and taking players on in one on one situations. He replaced Corey Baird, who I feel is a serviceable winger but a much better center forward. Baird and Plata also have very different skill sets, which I believe is what gave the Minnesota defense fits when Plata came into the game. Based upon his performance last week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Plata back in the starting lineup this week against Colorado.

In my opinion, the key for RSL against Colorado tonight is going to be to stay balanced. I expect that we will have the lion’s share of the possession in this game, as Colorado is only averaging 38.5% possession on the road this season, and RSL is averaging 54.7% possession at home this season. I would not be surprised at all to see something like a 65-35 possession split in favor of RSL at the end of tonight’s game. The key, then will be staying balanced so that we don’t get burned on the counterattack. RSL did a very good job of limiting Colorado’s counterattack in their first game this season, and I expect that they will have a similar game plan in place to get a win tonight.

Colorado Rapids

The Rapids come into this game with a 4-11-4 overall record, good for 16 points and 11th place in the current Western Conference standings. They also come into this game on a three match winless streak, with their last win in league play coming back on July 2nd. Thus far this season they have scored 22 goals while conceding 32 in the 19 games they have played so far this season.

Due to their struggles and their personnel this season, Colorado have largely become a bunker and counter team. The player to keep an eye on for Colorado is Dominique Badji, who leads the Rapids with 7 goals so far this season. He is a pacy forward, and the counterattacking style the team plays works well with his skillset. Conversely, if RSL is able to contain Badji, they will largely contain the Colorado offense.

Defensively, the Rapids have struggled in keeping track of creative players. This is another reason why I would not at all be surprised to see Plata in the RSL starting 11 tonight. His ability to take the attack to the defense quickly and skillfully should be very effective against this Colorado defense.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DF: Lennon, M. Silva, Glad, Acosta

MF: Beckerman, Kreilach

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

ST: Baird

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Stay balanced and be aware of the counterattack . RSL is going to have a lot of possession, but they will have to stay balanced to prevent themselves from being exposed defensively on the counterattack. Balance from the defensive midfield and fullbacks will be essential.
  2. Be patient in creating opportunities and take advantage of them when they do arise. Colorado will mostly have their defense packed in behind the ball, and RSL will need to be patient in finding good opportunities. As they continue to be patient, they will be able to great good opportunities on goal and as long as they finish them, we should be celebrating RSL winning the RSL cup tonight with fireworks after the game.