I have heard from several sources that the players are as upset and in many case more upset than the fans at the way the season has started for Real Salt Lake, and who can blame them it hasn’t been pretty.
9 points from 8 matches isn’t how RSL usually starts a season, but for me the points are less important than the eyeball test, in which RSL simply hasn’t looked very good for a full match, heck for a half, or if we are being brutally honest for a 15 minute stretch. Yes there have been passing combos that have inspired, saves that have made the highlight reel, but overall this has been simply ugly. It has been a very, very long time since I remember seeing RSL rated just #15 in the USA Today Sagarin ratings.
In recent RSL history, this is our worst start at 2-2-4, last season we were 3-0-3 after 8, 3-3-2 in 2013 and 5-3-0 in 2012. For me the question on my mind is what happens in the next 2 matches? I believed and still do that the key to making the playoffs and hitting that gold standard of 15 wins/50 points is to win you home matches and to get results against teams from the East. 4 points from these next two matches would put us at 14 points the same as 2013, but lagging behind our 20 points of last season or 19 points after 10 matches in 2012. A pair of wins would put us at 16 points from 10 matches and that wouldn’t be a bad place to be.
So it was interesting listening to OnFrame this week, as clearly between the bizarre plays of the San Jose match, a goal that even some of their fans don’t think should have counted to one of the prettiest own goals I have seen in years, and the overall frustration over results was one of the main focus areas. I know a lot of fans are critical of the 4-3-3 formation and believe that it is at the root of all the issues, and while I believe players are still adjusting to it, I think things are more about players adjusting to new roles within the formation. I also think our lack of finishing and creating dangerous chances is allowing teams to defend with fewer numbers and push higher, that will clog the space in the midfield that we created with the new formation and makes our passing lanes more difficult to find and use.
It isn’t the first or last time you will hear people say “scoring a few goals will solve a lot of issues” and I agree with that. The number of opportunities we are creating just isn’t what I expected from the new formation, I can deal with the lower possession numbers if it creates more chances but it hasn’t. That lack of opportunities has left us without a lot of goals being scored, and I am sorry while that own goals stops our “goalless” streak officially to me it doesn’t as we haven’t score a goal in our last 4 and ½ matches. Last year we had 13 goals in our first 8 matches and 21 in our first 10, so far this year we have 7 including that San Jose own goal.
RSL isn’t the only team dealing with changes, the LA Galaxy are notorious for slow starts in MLS but at 3-2-4 one might consider that a great start given what they have been dealing with. Any team that has to deal with losing a player like Landon Donovan is going to struggle a bit, then when you add in the injury to Robbie Keane, and having to wait until the EPL season is over to get their latest DP Steve Gerrard, I think they are probably doing better than they hoped for. Still the team has just two clean sheets so far this season, which matches the two matches in which they haven’t scored a goal. I hate playing LA this early in the season, I wish both of our home matches were at the end of the season for a number of reasons, want both sides to be healthy (LA without Keane, Villarreal, and probably Dunivant & RSL without Plata, Morales, Schuler and Jaime), the matches between these two teams always are hard fought and often very exciting matches, so to see them missing a number of key players on both sides is a bit of a disappointment.
Still the match will be played, there is a real chance of some bad weather (rain and thunderstorms) but RSL have played well in the past when the elements have been less than ideal, so maybe this is what they need to find some offensive results, or to be honest some real efforts and chances on the offensive side. I am done picking scores and winners until RSL starts playing with a level of consistency that allows one to more than simply throw darts at balloons to make picks. One thing is for sure against this revamped LA Galaxy side their young forwards are fearless, fast and very talented so you get your hands full dealing with Gyasi Zardes and Bradford Jamieson for 60 plus minutes and then LA trots out Alan Gordon to pound you into submission in the closing minutes (he has 3 goals and 4 assists all time against RSL in 721 minutes of action)
RSL needs to win their home matches, we need our players to perform at a higher level and hope that the officials will as well.
That’s How I See It!