Sometimes out of a crisis comes something good and unexpected, this could be the case for Real Salt Lake and their injury issues. I would never wish for a player to be injured but as we have seen that when doors are opened for others, sometimes we get very pleasant surprises. I think perhaps the best half of soccer that RSL has played in a couple of years came earlier this year when we were missing a couple of the normal key pieces. It was a match where Devon Sandoval and Robbie Findley looked as good up top as Robbie and Yura used to, where the combination play of Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez featured as much energy as Andy Williams used to bring.
So now RSL faces Alvaro Saborio being out a couple weeks and several others (Robbie Findley, Olmes Garcia) having some injury issues as well, and it was interesting to hear RSL head coach Jason Kreis mention the possibility of having to adjust our formation to meet what players are fit and ready to go. It got me thinking, could RSL go with a 4-5-1? Maybe, but for me, I would love to see a try of a 4-3-3, now it is a bit risky, and I am going to put a couple players in some positions that they might not normally think of themselves in, but heck given the result last week, is there much to lose?
So we go with what has become our normal back line (Palmer, Borchers, Schuler, Beltran) and in the middle we go with Beckerman, Morales, and Grabavoy, and up top we go with (depending on who is healthy) Velasquez, Sandoval, Gil. This give us the option of bringing in Yordany to shore up the back 3, and Plata, Garcia, Findley, or Viana (I think he would do well in this formation- I only expect 3 of these guys will likely be fit) to boost the offense if needed. We of course would still have our back up keeper, Saunders and then, Mansally and/or Watson-Siriboe for relief at the various defender positions.
Even if we stay with the traditional 4-4-2, the reality is that the injuries that have hit RSL fairly hard at the start of the season have given guys who might not have gotten them some critical minutes in big matches that will likely pay off as the summer goes along. The reality is that while RSL normally tries to not have to depend on new or young players for too much during their first few months or season with the team, that isn’t the case this year. With 3 new and young players in our crop of 5 forwards, each of them will be called on a lot more than would have been the case in past seasons, so far each of them have shown that they have that something which could lead them to being special players.
For Joao Plata, it is that combination of speed and energy, he is a fun player to watch because despite his small size you just never know what he is going to do, he is fearless. Then there is Olmes Garcia, who went from unknown to having almost everyone around MLS talking about him, and had it not been for 3 shots that hit the crossbar, he could easily be in the talks for rookie of the year, or even the golden boot. He has some great speed and his skill on the ball makes him enjoyable to watch. Devon Sandoval was a known quantity to the RSL staff, having spent time with them last year, and he like the others has provided a real spark to the RSL offense. While his success has come mostly in reserve matches so far this season, his minutes with the first team have shown that he has the skill and size to provide RSL with some real options up top.
I am not sure what will happen on Saturday, I doubt we will see a radical shift in formation or tactics, but it is clear that more than in past years we have the players (young, new, and experienced) to do so. I think these are exciting times as we watch RSL evolve into the squad that will make the next 3-4 year run for silverware.
That’s How I See It