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Tactical Preview: RSL vs SKC

RSL travel to Kansas City to take on their bitter rivals in a game with sure playoff implications.

MLS: Sporting KC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

As the end of the season grows ever closer, RSL are in Kansas City to take on Sporting KC, perhaps their biggest rivals in MLS. The game promises to have a derby feel, as both teams will be looking to improve their playoff chances and seeding. What might we see from each team, and how can RSL pull off a win? Let’s talk tactics!

Real Salt Lake

If Mike Petke needed any help in coming up for a game plan for this game, all he needed to do was re-watch the game tape from RSL’s 4th of July blowout win over SKC. That was one of the best, most complete games RSL has played all season, especially against a quality opponent. With SKC currently 6 points ahead of RSL in the playoff standings, a win against them would be a huge boost in confidence.

The key to playing well against SKC is finding a way to deal with the high pressure they play with defensively. If you can find a way to break through the pressure, then all of the sudden you have a lot of free space and open grass to run into, something that our team does well with. If RSL can keep possession of the ball in spite of the high press and find the right passes to break out of the press, then we should see them get some great opportunities where all front four players are running hard into open space with the ball against a now-scrambling SKC defense.

In a nutshell, I believe that is going to be RSL’s game plan in this match. Possess the ball, break the high press, and look to send our attacking players running into open space. Particularly, look for Joao Plata to break into the open space vacated by Graham Zusi, who plays a very attack-minded fullback role.

Sporting Kansas City

SKC is going to come into this game expecting to win, and looking for revenge for the above mentioned 4th of July game. Thus far this season Sporting have played well, amassing 51 points in 29 games via a 15-8-6 overall record. Through their 29 games, they have scored 54 goals, while allowing just 36 in MLS play.

Thus far this season Sporting have played well at home, with a 9-2-3 overall record and Mercy Children’s Park. They also keep the ball well at home, averaging 58.5% possession in home games. A lot of that possession has to do with the high press that I mentioned previously. As soon as they lose the ball, all of their players focus on pressuring the ball and winning it back as quickly as possible. They have done well with this system over the years, and this year’s player group has figured it out pretty well. However, the system has a fatal flaw: if a team can find a way to play out of the pressure, then all of a sudden SKC is left pretty exposed. We saw RSL do a great job of this in the last game between these two teams, so it will be interesting to see if the Claret and Cobalt are up to the challenge again.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DF: Lennon, Silva, Glad, Herrera

MF: Beckerman, Sunny

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

ST: Kreilach

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Find a way to break the press. If RSL can keep the ball and move it well, they will get good scoring opportunities.
  2. Finish your chances! RSL will get chances. If we can have solid finishes from our attacking players, then we may just be able to head back to Utah with 3 points in our back pockets.