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Tactical Preview: RSL vs LAFC

RSL start off a three game road trip on short rest against LAFC looking for revenge and continued progress in the postseason hunt.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, there is nothing better than a quick turnaround between games to help you get over a disappointing performance.

Tonight, RSL is in Los Angeles to take on LAFC, and you can bet the boys are going to be motivated for this game for a lot of reasons: To forget and work past the disappointment of Saturday’s game, to get revenge on LAFC for that early season beating they gave us, and of course to continue their playoff push. This game is important to that, as a win would see RSL jump into 3rd place in the Western Conference table. What can the boys do to earn a rare road win? Let’s break it down!

Real Salt Lake

As mentioned above, Saturday’s game came to a disappointing 1-1 draw ending in a game that most, including myself, thought RSL should certainly win. The boys had their chances, too, but were not able to convert on the night. I’m willing to chalk that up to bad luck a little bit, as I would be willing to bet a healthy sum on Kyle Beckerman burying that back post header the next time he gets that wide open. Even so, the team also got pinned back late in the game and Nick Rimando had to stand on his head to even preserve the 1-1 draw.

So what can the Claret and Cobalt improve upon or change as they take on a dangerous LAFC side? The first thing that I think will happen is that we will see a couple of lineup changes. RSL cited squad rotation for 3 matches in 8 days as the reason Marcelo Silva did not play on Saturday against Montreal, so I fully expect to see him back in the lineup tonight. Also, my guess is that we will see Sunny step in with fresh legs for the midfield, probably in place of Kyle Beckerman, with Damir Kreilach holding down the #8 slot as usual. Danny Acosta in for Aaron Herrera, Bofo Saucedo in for Plata, and Luis Silva in for Corey Baird are all possibilities we could see as well, though ones I believe to be less likely.

Having M. Silva step back into the lineup will provide a strong, steady, and hard tackling presence on the back line. Not to mention, Silva and Glad are our strongest centerback pairing, any play well together. Having Sunny in the midfield will provide energy and a little bit of pace to help fortify against LAFC’s counterattacking capabilities.

Tactically, I believe that we will continue to see RSL play as they have throughout the season, without too much change. I expect at first the team will start out playing a little more defensively, and then will look to transition quickly into the counter when the ball turns over. I would also guess that in the early portions of the game, the focus will be on proper defensive shape and balance rather than full out attack, so the attack might look a little thin or disjointed at first. As the team adjust to the game, we’ll probably then see the fullbacks start to get forward a little bit more, but they will always be ready to track back. Also, whichever fullback is not forward in the attack will probably pinch in a little bit more to try and help support the midfield. These tactical approaches should help to slow down the LAFC counterattack that just took us apart earlier in the season.

On the attacking front, I would expect to see most of the attack work through Joao Plata and Albert Rusnak, as they are the two attacking creators on the team capable of producing magic when they are on the same wavelength. Look for Corey Baird to make hard, angled runs to pull the LAFC centerbacks in one direction, creating space on the other side to get the ball out to our wingers in space where they can create. Late runs out of the midfield by Kreilach will also be important in presenting a scoring threat. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m feeling confident that we see a Damir Kreilach goal from outside the 18 come from a feed from one of the wingers in space on the flank.


LAFC started the season very well, vaulting up the playoff standings and playing good soccer in the early months of the season. They have cooled off recently though, as they are currently winless in their last 5 MLS matches, posting an 0-3-2 record dating back over the past month. The big news in this one, though, is that LAFC sit immediately above RSL at 5th in the Western Conference Standings, just one point ahead of the Claret and Cobalt who are currently in 6th.

LAFC have come into the league this year and been an attacking force, much like when Atlanta United came into the league last year. Thus far this season, they have scored 45 goals and conceded 39. Essentially, most of their games involve multiple goals for both teams.

So what will they look like? Lately, LAFC have been coming out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with their front 4 of Latif Blessing, Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Marco Urena given full permission to absolutely terrorize opposing defenses with their skill and speed. I wouldn’t expect anything different from their team in this game.

It appears as if LAFC coach Bob Bradley held out multiple starters in their last game in preparation for this game, so they should have some fresh legs on the field. Where they won’t have fresh legs on the field in in their central defense, where I would expect Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen to start together again as they did on Saturday. This is an interesting pairing in the center midfield, as both players are more of #8’s than #6’s. Keep a close eye on how that partnership works together in helping the LAFC defense, and remember what I said above about Damir Kreilach making late runs from the midfield and scoring a banger from outside the box.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando, M. Silva, Glad, Herrera

MF: Kreilach, Sunny

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

ST: Baird

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Keep the balance and shape first! The team is going to have to assure that they don’t allow LAFC’s front 4 to pull them out of shape and get easy opportunities. Staying disciplined to your positional defensive responsibilities is the first key to a positive result in this match.
  2. Isolate the defense on the wings and then look for runners into/around the box. If RSL can get their creative wingers the ball with space out on the wing, they should be able to create some good scoring opportunities. Runs into and around the box should provide good targets for shots on goal.