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Tactical Preview: RSL vs. Montreal Impact

Can RSL continue their playoff push with a victory over the up and down Montreal Impact?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Montreal Impact Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

After a rumor filled week to close out the transfer window in which RSL did not make any moves, the team comes into tonight’s game looking to stay consistent and continue to make their push toward the playoffs. Their next challenge, the Montreal Impact, have had an up and and down season and will be looking to start to stabilize as the playoffs are rapidly approaching. Will the Claret and Cobalt be able to continue their unbeaten streak at home and continue to solidify their playoff position? Here’s how they can do it.

Real Salt Lake

Last week against the Chicago Fire, the Claret and Cobalt were able to execute their game plan and come out with a win. RSL GM Craig Waibel talked about it earlier this week when he appeared on ESPN 700:

“From a tactical standpoint, the coaches do a really thorough job of scouting the opponent, kind of having nuances and an idea of where we might break the team down more consistently than others. Last week, one of the biggest focuses was those late runs from Damir (Kreilach), because the staff had done a really good job scouting and noticed that Chicago wasn’t picking up those late runners out of the midfield space. I thought Damir consistently — he could have had one or two more goals on the night to be honest. Compliment to Damir, but also to the rest of the guys around him, because without creating that space — Corey, Albert, Plata, Sava — without creating that space for him, those are wasted energies. Really, the attack did a great job executing the game plan in a way they were trained.”

This quote spoke volumes to me, both in learning more about how the team prepares for each game, as well as reassuring the confidence that I have in Mike Petke and his coaching staff. They are doing the job they are supposed to do, and when the players execute the game plan, the team usually wins.

So what will the game plan be this week against Montreal? Unfortunately, I don’t have a direct line to any of the coaches to ask them, and I doubt they would tell me much even if I did. I do have a few guesses though, and I’ll share those with you.

In watching the highlights from Montreal’s game against DC United last week, I saw that their defense struggles a little bit with cross field ball movement. As the ball is crossed from one side to the other, they shift, but tend to get a little bit confused on who they are supposed to mark as they are shifting. If attackers are savvy and move off the ball as the cross field shift is occurring, they can more easily lose their defenders and be free inside the 18.

Another thing I noticed is that Montreal does not defend super well against 1 v 1 situations from out wide. Luckily for us, this is something that RSL does well. If they can find Plata and Savarino out wide isolated in space, they should be able to create good scoring opportunities.

Defensively, the Claret and Cobalt are going to have to keep a tight watch on Ignacio Piatti, who is the key cog in the Impact offense. Thus far this season, he has been involved in 19 of the teams 30 goals, with 11 goals and 8 assists. If RSL can shut him down and make him ineffective, they should be able to significantly dampen Montreal’s attack.

Montreal Impact

The Impact come into this game currently sitting on a 9-13-2 overall record, good for 29 points and 5th in the Eastern conference in the current table. Through 24 games, the Impact have scored 30 goals and conceded 40 goals. They played well earlier in the season to boost themselves into a playoff position, but have been struggling of late. In their last five games, they have won just once, along with 2 draws and 2 losses.

Most likely, we will see tonight’s opponent line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Piatti playing the left wing position. This will be a big test for Brooks Lennon, but I have faith that he will put in a good performance, as his growth at the right back position has been immense throughout the season.

The Impact typically don’t have a lot of the ball, especially on the road. Thus far this season, Montreal is averaging just 45.5% possession on the road. When you combine that with RSL’s average home possession of 55.4%, you can start to see that tonight’s match will likely be one in which RSL has a lot of the ball, and has to stay balanced defensively to be ready for Montreal’s counter attacks when the ball turns over.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DF: Lennon, M. Silva, Glad, Herrera

MF: Beckerman, Kreilach

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

ST: Baird

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Stay balanced and be ready for the counter. I would not be surprised to see a 60-40 split in possession in RSL’s favor at the end of this game. It is going to be very important for them to stay balanced defensively and be ready to defend against the counter attack.
  2. Work from the outside in and create scoring opportunities. If RSL can switch the point of attack quickly from side to side and get their wingers in one on one situations, they should be able to create good scoring opportunities. Fowards and midfielders making smart runs into the box as the wingers are going one on one should give them options to both score or assist, and should give RSL the opportunity to put a few balls into the back of the net.