Real Salt Lake (1-0-0 3 pts) will travel to San Jose this weekend for the second match of the season. It seems that we always start off the year with some combination of SJ away and LA away, and over years have actually had some pretty great results in these fixtures.
San Jose were on a bye this past weekend in MLS play, but played Toluca last night in CONCACAF Champions League play. The match ended in a 1-1 draw to the Mexican side. This game may be a great view into what San Jose are going to try and accomplish against teams this season, and RSL this weekend. (match stats HERE)
In typical San Jose fashion, the game came down to the very last minute. Toluca took the lead in the 67th minute off a great strike from Raul Nava which seemed to take a lot of energy out of SJ for a time. The match became very chippy late with a total of 5 yellow cards passed out by the center official (3 to San Jose). At the death of the match (90+5) San Jose found themselves standing over a set piece, and we all know what happens in that situation. On a ball flung into the box, Alan Gordon was able to get to the ball and head it into the back of the net.
San Jose, in this match, seem to be a very similar team when compared to years past. Their attack was geared towards getting the ball into the air and creating chances from the wings. They did seem to move the ball touchline to touchline a bit more effectively than in previous years, but their strength in the air remains the same. Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart find a way to get to the ball when given the opportunity. They are clinical in the air and seem to make chances out of nothing at time.
Interestingly in this match Chris Wondolowski only had 3 shots (putting all of them on goal), while Lenhart had 5 and Gordon , who subbed on in the 73rd minute, matched Wondolowski with 3. Defensively you could see that Toluca were aware of Wondo and may have been keying on him which allowed for Lenhart to have more chances. San Jose will likely look to do the same against RSL should we focus more defensively on Wondoloski.
Defensively SJ were stingey throughout the match. They are not afraid to get stuck in on a tackle at all. Bernardez, Pierazzi, and Hernandez were brutal at times (Bernardez and Pierazzi earning yellows) throughout the match. They like to play physically and will use this to their advantage. We’ve seen in years past where this type of play will wear on a team (RSL specifically) to the point that someone makes a reactionary tackle that ends up with the team playing down a man. San Jose wear this physicality as a badge of honor and will continue to play this way through out the season on defense.
All in all, this is the San Jose we all remember. RSL are familiar with their style and tactics and should be up to the task when called on.