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Talking Tactics: Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United

Width, long balls likely to dominate RSL’s attacking style

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

RSL’s game this Wednesday night against Minnesota brings playoff contention and teddy bears. For Kick Childhood Cancer night, fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game and throw them onto the pitch after RSL’s first goal. While waiting in great anticipation for that first goal, here are the standard plays and patterns to look out for.

Since RSL plays a 4-4-2, they won’t prioritize playing the ball down the middle. RSL’s majority of possession will rotate across the backline and down the wings. This formation with two strikers up top is widely known for long balls over the top. If they had a 10 or someone like Javier Morales, the formation would change, and RSL would be a possession-focused team.

When Minnesota presses high and has numbers forward, expect quick combination play to get the ball wide and up the field. Jefferson Savarino, Pablo Ruiz, and Jasper Löffelsend have all shown they can expose gaps in the defensive line. Cordova’s two goals against Seattle and Vancouver are good examples.

Justen Glad, Pablo Ruiz, Maikel Chang, and Aaron Herrera have the vision and passing ability to lob balls forward and across the field into open space. Most of the time, they’ll send the ball into the wide channels behind the opposition fullbacks. It is common for teams to push their fullbacks up the field to press the ball high and then break on the counter. This leaves the spaces behind them open and vulnerable to those kinds of passes.

If they stumble or take too long on the counter, you will see backward passes to the defensive line to recycle play. As frustrating as this can appear, it is intentionally done to draw the opposition away from the box and open space on the other side of the field. The three goals against SKC in July are good examples of this. (Goals at 2:08, 3:50, 4:57)

Expect one of two plays if the defense sets quickly to block the counter and long ball over the top: Justin Meram and Andrew Brody carrying the ball forward on the left. Or combination play on the right for Herrera to send in a cross. Both options pull defenders out of position and can shift the entire team over.

Brody’s assists in San Jose and against LAFC are prime examples for the left side. Notice how many defenders shift over to close Brody down and try to force him to the sideline or backward. Herrera’s assist to Anderson Julio against Dallas is a prime example of what to expect from the right(5:35).

RSL last played Minnesota ten games ago. In those ten games, they have taken 145 shots. 48 of those shots were on target, and they converted 15. They’ve scored three goals from outside the box and 12 from within. RSL needs open space to create scoring opportunities. Let’s hope they can find it against Minnesota Wednesday night.