The second game of the Desert Diamond Cup for Real Salt Lake is in the bag. Another goalless display from the Royals ended 0-1 to our bitter rivals from the other side of the Rockies. I’ve created a “tradition” of giving ’15 to 32′s 15 thoughts’ after each match for the past while on twitter and bigsoccer. My handle is 15to32 – a weak attempt at being clever, I know. I’m going to bring that to Northbank. Hope you all like it. Let me know either way in the comments below.
1. It is important to note that we’re in the preseason. While it is worrisome that we haven’t bagged a goal in the last 3 matches and, by extension, haven’t won a game; it’s not yet time to panic. That should be a concern, though, if we finish out this tournament without scoring or winning. You don’t want to go into the season on a scoring and winning drought.
2. The goal of preseason is to get guys back up to speed, working towards peak fitness and building a foundation for chemistry. Based solely on this game, as it is the only one I’ve watched for the full 90, you can see that we are heading in that direction. Guys aren’t sharp in what they’re doing, but you can see the ideology is setting in. The sharpness will come with time.
3. So, what exactly is different under Jeff Cassar?. To put it simply – not a lot. The one thing I noticed in this game that was slightly different from a Jason Kreis squad was the aggressiveness of the outside backs. This is key as they are the only source of true width in the diamond setup. The midfield can go wide, yes, but it does so as a unit. Same with the forwards. True width is having players strung across the entire width of the pitch. The outside backs are the only players in this setup that give that “true width”.
4. Now, don’t confuse aggressive with dangerous. The truth is, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert leave a lot to be desired in the attacking department. Neither is a very strong crosser of the ball. Further, neither is exactly known for having a good shot. What they provide, now, is just another body in the attacking third. That’s a plus in that it allows more triangles to be created, but it quickly fizzles out if we don’t get into a dangerous spot in the first 3 passes. To become dangerous, they have to improve their crossing and shooting.
5. Nick Rimando, in this game, had some pretty shaky moments. I love that we can utilize him as a sweeper-keeper of sorts, but the risk factor in putting him one v one with a speedster like Brown is astronomical. The goal was not his fault in the slightest, so that is a plus. However, it wasn’t one of those clinical Nick Rimando games where he springs attacks with his arm and legs. Nothing to worry about as Nicky is, in my humble opinion, the best keeper in Major League Soccer.
6. The center back duo of Salcedo and Schuler was a very interesting one. It could be the pairing we see in years to come as Borchers is rather long in the tooth. Also, both Schuler and Salcedo are high in the opinion’s of RSL staff, so this is something to watch. As Jake pointed out in his halftime thoughts, Salcedo was once again showing his youth. The center back position is one of the most thankless in this area. Velasquez constantly shows his youth in the midfield, but it isn’t as hurtful to the team as when Carlos does it. That’s just the nature of the game. That said, he and Schuler didn’t concede a goal to the cRapids (specifically Deshorn Brown) in their 60ish minutes. That was a big positive to me.
7. Moving up the spine, Kyle was Kyle. When a holding mid has a good game it plays out one of two ways. Either you notice nothing of them and nothing of the opposing teams attacking midfield. Or, they are involved in so much of the game you can’t help but notice you’ve said their name 150+ times in 90 minutes. Kyle had the former example in this match. It wasn’t really sharp like we’ve seen with him, but you could tell he has had games under his belt this year with the national team. Just quicker in decisions and better with the ball. This is a huge plus of him getting involved with the national team again. The downside obviously being the chunk of the season he’ll miss in Brazil this year.
8. The outside of the diamond were rather quiet in this game for the first 60. Ned and Vela had good moments early on but fizzled out after about minute 35. Velasquez had RSL’s best chance of the game in the first half. A rather well-built attack landed to his right foot in the box. Unfortunately, he pushed it just wide of the post. Overall, the two weren’t terrible, but again, they weren’t overly noticeable as the game wore on. If we want to have a repeat successful season, these guys have to play well.
9. The attacking trio of Plata, Morales and Saborio was a bit disconnected this game. This is to be expected as you never want your offense to peak early. However, it is a bit concerning that they are this disconnected just roughly two months since MLS Cup. Still, I’m not overly worried about it at this point. This will be your attacking diamond on opening day, most likely, so it’s key they continue to get minutes.
10. Another key in preseason is hammering out who is going to be a contributor this year. The depth that came on in the 60th minute was really raw. Both in a good fashion and bad. Overall, I was pleased with the display they gave. Yes, the goal was disappointing, but the drive from the guys was good. It is to be expected that these guys won’t have great chemistry, so it is more important to focus on the individual aspect with them.
11. Through the back, the most concerning part was Nat Borchers and Maund falling asleep on Deshorn Brown. It was a good ball by the cRapids, but man was it way to easy for Brown. Balchan looked pretty good having to deal with arguably the best player on the cRapids during his spell. Mansally still looks so raw out there. It concerns me that he has looked worse in the offensive department through his time here. When he first got in he looked to be the attacking winger we needed. Now, not so much.
12. The midfield that came in really surprised me. In the good: Mulholland and Grossman. Mulholland, specifically, looked the most composed of the second squad that came on. He reminds me of Johnny Steele but with better technical ability. His lack of a left foot, though, was a bit shocking. Stertzer played okay, I thought, nothing too special. Again, having to play that holding mid spot doesn’t lend you to have sparkling reviews.
13. The second wave attacking trio was strange. Garcia has more speed than he knows what to do with but he seems to be over-thinking things still. He needs to utilize that speed, put his head down, and blow by some guys from time to time. When he first came in the game on he did this and earned a dangerous free kick. That’s what we need. It was obvious that Sandoval was still recovering from his off-season injury/surgery. Just wasn’t clean. It was a lot of uncharacteristic stuff from him that I wouldn’t put any stock in to.
14. The trialist, Dylan Mares, was a bit of a ghost to me. Maybe it was more to do with the lack of video quality, but I really don’t remember him being involved too much. This is not a good thing to have happen when you’re on trial. You want to put your stamp on the game. Even if it’s in a bad way, you have to show yourself. Especially with a team like RSL where positions on the roster are so hard to come by with the depth that is already here. Not a good sign for him.
15. Overall, a bit of a disappointing game but nothing to be overly concerned about at this point. The progression for a preseason match looked good. We have 2 more round robin games before the last game to determine our finishing spot. The chances of playing in the championship game look pretty slim at this point. That was not the point of this tournament, though, so it’s not something we as fans should be upset over. I’d rather win a trophy during the season than a preseason one in Tucson, Arizona.