Real Salt Lake took an opportunity this weekend against TFC to put on a display, yet again, of why they call soccer ‘The Beautiful Game’. It’s always interesting to me when a team like RSL goes up against a team like TFC. Could two teams be more polar opposite? We talk about this from time to time as RSL fans. Us vs Them. Possession vs Punch and run. And the all too familiar David vs Goliath. It’s a difference of style and philosophy, it’s a difference in personality, a difference that bleeds through to the core of who we are as a club.
There was so much banter coming into this one that, if I’m honest, I failed to pay a lot of attention to what the actual performance of TFC had been telling us through the first two games they played. This team makes no effort to try and possess the ball in the attack. When they win the ball on defense the game plan is to find Bradley’s feet as quickly as possible and to then launch the ball into the attacking third with the hopes that Defoe or Gilberto will be able to create some one on one magic and steal a goal. Hey, it worked for them two weeks in a row, so it has to be a good game plan.
In watching the highlights and bits of the recorded match, RSL had a game plan of their own: shut Bradley down. Taking away is space by quickly and effectively tackling him in the midfield essentially cut off their attack for most of the game. To be fair they still created a lot of chances, but it always felt like they were stifled to an extent. Also to be noted was the skill with which Chris Schuler (and Nat at times) shut Defoe down when he had the ball in or around the 18 yard box. It was a fantastic showing for all on the back line throughout the match.
What I took away more than anything from this match was that the feel of the team was different from minute 1. I don’t know if you realized it too, but there was an energy, a fight, that was different than what we’ve seen from the group up until this point in the season. It’s a desire that I hope carries into the rest of the season and more specifically this weekend at KC. I don’t know if it was a chip on their collective shoulders from the comments throughout the week or if it was a fire that Jeff lit and then fanned into the inferno that seemed to blaze in each player through the game, but whatever it was, let’s see more of that please.