Real Salt Lake walked away with another three points for the 2021 season at home against Sporting Kansas City. While I’m hesitant to continue calling it a rivalry game after the last couple of legs, as long as Roger Espinoza is still on the field there will always be a chance. With San Jose Earthquakes coming to town for a “Friday Night Lights” game, let’s think about how RSL can better themselves and try to stay the only undefeated team in the MLS Western Conference.
Cade Cowell Containment
Three weeks into the season, you can’t throw a Chris Wondolowski miss without running into a clip of 17-year-old Cade Cowell doing something amazing. After the Sporting Kansas City match, I really worry that such a dynamic and strong player is going to expose a lot of problems with the Real Salt Lake defensive group.
Sporting Kansas City seemed to have little to no issue slicing through the RSL defense for most of the first half. A fast and strong midfielder has to potential to slice completely through the defense that came out last weekend and I would have to think that San Jose head coach Matías Almeyda is well aware of that exploit in wait.
This will mean that whoever the starting right and left-back are will need to be either ready to bunker or have the endurance for an endless amount of well-thought-out recovery runs. It will be an absolute nailed-on goal if Donny Toia and Justen Glad run into the same space.
All of this without once mentioning that Jackson Yueill is also a San Jose midfielder and has absolutely no issue putting a ball on frame, through traffic, from 30+ yards out. It also doesn’t consider that Chris Wondolowski is also on the pitch ready to poach anything that drops in the box.
Aaron Herrera is not on the injury report, which I think is great news. Andrew Brody had an absolute beast of a game against Sporting KC, also greater news. However, the team and coach Freddy Juarez now find themselves in quite a predicament.
Who starts and where?
Do you hope that Aaron can go a whole 90 minutes and play on the other side of the field?
Do you hope that Andrew can have a repeat and go 90 minutes?
Do you start one over the other on the left and hope that Donny Toia can pull out a performance?
Those are some hard questions to answer and they absolutely have to be answered. How that question is answered is going to play a huge part in how the defense sets up and contains the aforementioned attacking threats.
I believe that the fanbase and really anyone that watches Real Salt Lake would have considered Minnesota away and Kansas City at home in the first two weeks to be a real test, the actual season has shown us that San Jose may be the lion amongst sheep. I have a feeling it’s going to be a much strong test for the team, the formation, and the coaching staff's ability to address and resolve problems on the fly.
Also, Ochoa may have to stop some shots.