After watching the Orlando match last Saturday, a lot of RSL fans around the world breathed a collective ‘meh’.
While RSL Soapbox may have predicted the lineup, most RSL fans were hoping the prediction was not prophetic. The collective feeling about the starting 11 was... ‘for real?’ or at least some version of that. Seeing Aaron Herrera on the wing brought back nightmares of Brooks Lennon stuck back as a right back.
Fans also wondered about attacking firepower like Corey Baird, Justin Meram, and Giuseppe Rossi sitting on the bench while players played out of position, and players that have not really shown the attacking prowess that fans want got the nod.
Fitness aside, fans want goals this year. Players want goals this year. I think we can all agree that everyone wants more goals this year. So, why the conservative lineup? Why the possession style approach?
Here are three areas that RSL can improve in the short-term and the long-term.
Formation and positions
For a few years now RSL has been playing something like a 4-2-3-1. I wonder if this also leaves us in a defensive mindset more than really pushing for goals. (More on this in a sec) What I wonder is if the formation (yes, I am aware that this would not happen before the match against the Red Bulls) might need a little shift.
I sometimes wonder if a 4-1-3-2 or a 4-2-2-2, or even a 4-3-3 wouldn’t suit our talents more. Right now, having two defensive midfielders in, leaves transition play in a difficult place at times. It seemed like Freddy Juarez thought Justin Glad and Aaron Herrera needed to play on the right side and that we needed Herrera as a right wing, because of fitness or they were the best players.
If the formation had shifted how could we have lined up differently? What if we had Marcelo Silva playing a defensive midfield in front of Nedum Onuoha and Justen Glad? Obviously, an Everton Luiz would be idea for that type of 4-1-3-2 lineup.
We don’t seem to have a perfect 9, so why not have two up top that can feed each other and play together rather than as a single striker? Why put Damir Kreilach up front when we all know that he is going to come all the way back and play defense?
The midfield, with four players, should have felt like it was managing the match in the middle, but at times Albert Rusnak seemed lost or not present. His stats don’t necessarily agree with that, but maybe with three midfielders playing up more we could have controlled the tempo more and struck with two forwards. With the wing players we have, I would like to see some different formations for different teams this year, and not just play the ‘best’ or the most ‘fit’ players in the lineup out of position.
This needs to improve this year. We simply did not find the back of the next enough last year. We have some new attacking elements, and there were signs of life in the second half, however, there also seems to be a need to actually get enough minutes to the right players to score much more often this year.
Now, are all the RSL players 100 percent match fit? Maybe not, but why not have them play one half? Why not have the substitutions come on earlier or at halftime? Let them play as many minutes as they are ‘fit’ for and see if we can’t get the right offensive players to gel sooner rather than later. Fans seem to want to see more excitement on the pitch, and goals tend to get us all excited.
So, what can be improved in the attack? Flow and coordination are a couple of areas. The attack really didn’t seem to flow until Corey Baird, Justin Meram, and Giuseppe Rossi got into the match. Are they all 90-minutes fit? Maybe, maybe not.
Will we see all of them on the pitch at the same time again? It would certainly be an improvement over the first 45 minutes last Saturday. What will Jeizon Ramirez bring? Will he play on Saturday? What about Julian Vazquez, Douglas Martinez, Milan Iloski, Luis Arriaga, or Christopher Garcia? Will we see any of them on Saturday? It remains to be seen, but some of them have to be an improvement over the anemic first 45 minutes against Orlando.
This one is a little harder to quantify. There were moments when we had players open and passes were not made. There were moments when players were out of position, and there seemed to be little awareness in these moments. Albert Rusnak can improve in this area.
It is early in the season and there are still questions about what the best starting 11 would look like for RSL. Are there going to be mental lapses? Of course. Are the players going to play perfectly and always see each other? Of course not. Is it easier to sit in Rio Tinto Stadium and ‘see’ open players than when you are on the pitch and there are multiple defenders converging on you? Of course. Could the miscues and unawareness, at times last Saturday, be first match jitters? Also, very possible.
Between needing individual players to be heroic on defense at times and missing wide open players on the attack, hopefully we see awareness of each other and see more of the team playing as a team. There are a lot of exciting players on this team this year and a lot of potential; it is often those few seconds when the right player in the right place gets the ball that make or break a match. Let’s hope to see more of those moments, and the back of the net more.