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Tactical Preview: RSL vs. Minnesota United

RSL look to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race and get revenge against Minnesota United.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After a two week layoff for the international break, RSL soccer is back tonight! The Claret and Cobalt return to the fortress that is the RioT to take on struggling Minnesota United, with a lot on the line. Will we see their excellent form continue and another great win? What will Minnesota do to try and stop it? Let’s dive in and take a look!

Real Salt Lake

As you can probably imagine following two games in a row where RSL scored six goals, there has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the team and how they have been playing over the last few games. If you haven’t seen it, I think you’re probably living under a rock! Regardless, the easy way of describing how they are playing tactically is exactly how Mike Petke described it following the 6-2 win over the LA Galaxy:

“I don’t honestly consider Damir as a forward tonight. Him and Albert (Rusnak) rotated. There were two positions tonight that we didn’t identify to our players that they were playing, that was Damir and Albert. Someone had to occupy the center backs, and someone always had to drop in and I think most of the time Damir was the higher one.”

The funny thing is, Mike Petke’s initial reaction on that was wrong. Take a look at this player position chart:

RSL player positions from RSL vs LA Galaxy, 09/02/2018

As you look at the chart, you can barely see Kreilach’s #6 poking out from under Plata’s #10 marker. On the chart, each marker represents that player’s average position on the field throughout the game. It’s a credit to Kreilach and his work ethic and effort that Mike Petke believed that he was the player highest up the field, when the position chart shows differently.

Regardless of which player was actually higher up the field, the fact of the matter is that the setup worked excellently for the second straight game. The players have found a way to interact with each other that makes everyone goal dangerous, and I expect that they will continue to play that way now that they have started to figure it out together.

Minnesota United

Minnesota come into this game struggling, desperate for a win to keep their (very) slim playoff hopes alive. They have gone 0-5-1 in their last six games, scoring just 6 goals while conceding 14. Through 27 games, the Loons have allowed 54 goals, which averages to just over 2 goals conceded per game.

This season, Minnesota have been playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, and a lot of their successes and failures this season have all depended on the play of attacking midfielder Darwin Quintero, who is their only goal scorer in double figures this year. He is going to be the player that RSL are going to have to keep a constant eye on, as a lot of the Loons’ offense runs through him.

One thing I think is for sure is that RSL is going to have a lot of the ball tonight. The Claret and Cobalt are averaging 55.6% of possession at home, while Minnesota are averaging just 46.4% of possession when on the road.

As we have seen multiple times this season, I think Minnesota is going to come into the RioT looking to bunker in deep and then try and break out on the counterattack when they have the opportunity. They have players that can counter well, so that is something that RSL is going to have to be aware of. If RSL can break down the bunker and get an early goal, it will force Minnesota to open up their play a little bit, which is exactly what they want them to do. If the game opens up... I feel pretty good about RSL’s chances to get a win at home.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DF: Lennon, Glad, Besler, Herrera

MF: Beckerman, Sunny

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

FW: Kreilach

RSL’s keys to the game

  1. Break down the bunker. If RSL can find the way to break through Minnesota’s bunkering defense and score a goal, they should be able to force the game to open up, which would only be to their advantage.
  2. Beware the counter. If the game does stay scoreless, then Minnesota are going to continue to defend deep and look to break out on the counter. The team is going to have to stay aware and balanced defensively.