Photo Credit: Taylor Fugate (smackdowntay.blogspot.com)
It’s time to point fingers. It’s time to figure out exactly what’s going wrong for our troubled Real Salt Lake. After losing three straight matches at home in all competitions, what can fans expect? Real seems to have fallen into a very unpredictable funk. Look at their last four games: 1-3 loss to MN Stars, 3-0 smashing at Chivas, 3-2 giveaway to LA, 1-2 drop to San Jose. Honestly, I can compare our play to that of an expansion team. We’re losing frequently, disappointing fans, having random confidence boosts with unpredictable victories.
Fortunately, it hasn’t been this way all season, but signs have been hinting in this direction for quite some time. Real has a lot more inexperienced players this season and that may have influence over the naivety of the club’s on-field performance. But that isn’t all. Here’s my list of what’s going on.
The team is not playing defense as a team.
One of the biggest parts of the RSL Way is that EVERYONE plays defense. It starts with the forwards and ends with Nick Rimando between the uprights. At the beginning of the season, this really wasn’t an issue, but as confidence has grown players don’t feel the urgent need to get back on the defensive side of the ball. Forwards haven’t been doing awful, in fact, they’ve been pressuring the opponent’s back line quite well as of late. I believe the issue in defending can be found in our midfield and outside back positions. The outside backs have been encouraged to attack up the flanks and for a good reason, thanks to them the claret and cobalt have created several goals. But they need to track back more than any other player on the whole team. Throughout the last several matches, there have been gaping holes on the wings that the opposition have exploited on the counter-attack. Look at the last two goals Los Angelas put in on us! It seemed like it was the Galaxy counter against our lonesome centerbacks! The rest of the members of the RSL squad got caught watching the turn of events from midfield.
Nick Rimando is playing slightly tentative.
Yes, I know. It’s surprising isn’t it? I’ve never seen Nick come out so hesitant in a game. Against San Jose, he and Nat Borchers miscommunicated which caused Rimando to stutter his approach to the ball and consequentially get caught in no-man’s-land between the ball and the open net. Then you’ve got the goal the Galaxy scored in which Rimando came sprinting off his line way early and was beat quite easily by the LA attacker on the edge of the box. This is almost definitely just a stutter in his usually good form. Let’s hope it gets fixed sooner rather than later.
High expectations are overwhelming for RSL.
Real Salt Lake has quite a history of being overwhelmed by high expectations. It seems that every time the stadium is at capacity, the team falls apart on the pitch. You’ve got the CCL final last season that RSL dropped at home, then you have the situation in which Real is cruising at the top of the standings, more and more fans are attending matches, and they choke at the RioT, in front of everyone. It’s a sad statistic for any fan. The world’s best teams can win games on the big stage with big expectations on the line.
There is no confidence booster.
This is an interesting one. It really hasn’t been an issue until lately. A good example of it was the LA game. Real was up 2-0 and cruising. I for one expected RSL to hand the Galaxy a beating for the second year in a row at Rio Tinto. The Tony Beltran made a mistake that handed LA a goal. No big deal. It was a fluke and Real still had a goal advantage. Then LA took advantage of another mistake. This time, the heads of every RSL player hung in disappointment and shock. They didn’t pump themselves up and look to go for goal. The level of their play consequently fell and Los Angelas found the back of the net completing the come-from-behind upset. Real need to rediscover the fire in their eye that was present in games earlier this season against Portland and Toronto FC where they were able to pull out big time results with the odds stacked against them.
So there you have it. This has been my bleak analysis on Real Salt Lake’s form. Up next is how RSL and its fans alike are going to find a way out of the current situation.
WE BELIEVE IN RSL!!!