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Points of Obvious Refinement: Real Salt Lake vs Nashville SC

Is it one point gained or two points lost when you have a draw at home with zero shots on goal?

MLS: Nashville SC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake (for all intents and purposes) have left two points very much on the table to visitors Nashville SC last weekend. It was a decent performance in the general scope of things, but there is always room to improve. Here’s what I think the team can do on their away trip to FC Dallas.

Cautionary Cautions

Four games into the season and Real Salt Lake has received five yellow cards for every one their opponent has received. There are multiple players with two yellows, which puts them ever closer to the accumulation suspension line.

Some players have always had an issue with Yellow Cards. Everton Luiz, Justen Glad, and Marcelo Silva are historically magnets for cards. With the (repeatedly) mentioned lack of depth at the center back position and how it influences depth at defensive midfielder, this could lead to a very dangerous situation coming into the return from the international break in June.

An away game in Dallas is probably a good opportunity to pick up another yellow or two. It will be incredibly important that the team, especially the defensive core, shows some restraint going into tackles and breaking up plays. There are potential consequences down the road for those actions that the roster just isn’t currently set up to handle.

Distribution Network

You’d think with such a heavy culture of MLM’s in the Wasatch Front, there would be some understanding of how to set up a distribution network and put people in your downline. The midfield (namely Albert Rusnak) could take some pointers from this model and work to better distribute and spring attacks.

This season I have been continually impressed with the ability of attacking players like Anderson Julio and Rubio Rubin to go forward and take direct balls. I’m also continually impressed by players like Andrew Brody and Aaron Herrera’s abilities to dribble through the defensive lines to make those connections.

However, it’s not tenable for the team to continue to rely on only those two connection points between the center backs and the attacking third. While I think Albert has done markedly better in the middle than he was on the wing, there needs to be more of that connection coming through the middle instead of up the outside channels. Not only does it decrease the burden on the legs of everyone else, but moving through the midfield creates opportunities to unsettle bunkered defenses.

As has been the case with Real Salt Lake over the run of history, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the league to figure out what the “secret” is. Every team will prep for Rubin the same way they prepped for players like “Burrito” Martinez and Joao Plata. It should be the goal of Freddy Juarez and staff to force opposing defenses into tough decisions. Bringing a strong midfield into the game will help force those decisions.

You can’t kill the touchlines and double team the forward players if the midfield can make connections.

Between the Sticks

With David Ochoa leaving on national duty, it’s a big opportunity for Zac MacMath to step up and show that he’s still a contender for the starting spot.

2020 was not a good year for Zac, but I believe that he still has it in him. I don’t know if this is just because I will forever have the 2016 Colorado Rapids season burned into my mind or if it’s because his dad liked one of my tweets once.

I think Ochoa is the future of the team in goal, but competition from someone with the experience of MacMath is good for everyone.