Apr 12, 2014; Chester, PA, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman (5) celibates his goal during the second half of the game against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia - 15 Thoughts

1. We’re still undefeated!
This is easily the most shocking part of the season so far. To go 6 league games without a loss is remarkable on its own. To do it while playing 4 of those on the road is a whole other beast. Credit to Cassar and the rest of the staff for having this team focused week in and week out.

2. Another late goal cost this team points. That is accounts for 4 points now that RSL has dropped in stoppage time. 4 points is a HUGE difference in standings come season end. 4 points would have won the Supporters Shield for us in 2013. 4 points would have had us hosting the MLS Cup in 2013. This can’t be a habit. It’s the most glaring issue with the team now. They don’t have the killer instinct to kill off a game.

3. Chris Wingert is having a rough start to the season. In this game and the home game against LA, Wingert has been beat down his wing. This one was slightly different as he didn’t individually lose the ball, but he was well out of position. Credit to Philly for making the sloting pass that lead to their first goal, but Wingert gave up that space way too easily.

4. Javier Morales was on fire. This was easily his best game of the season. Even better than the home match against TFC. He was everywhere. His touch was silky. His vision and passes were top-notch. Individually speaking, Javier was on another level. The rest of the squad, especially offensively speaking, wasn’t quite on the same level.

5. Olmes Garcia’s season of frustration continued. In this game, he at least was getting in good spots. Especially in the first half, Olmes kep finding space and exploiting it. The pk we earned was because of this. his finishing, though, left a lot to be desired. He had 3 really quality chances to find the net (and in hindsight probably put the game away). Instead, he fired directly at McMath twice and just wide on the third. We need Olmes to find his shooting shoes asap.

6. Luke Mulholland is the real deal. His nickname that floated up on twitter during the game was trash-man. I couldn’t think of one more fitting. He’s scored three two goals this season and they’ve all come off of cleanup. He made the finish on the blocked pk look a lot easier than it was. McMath showed last week in Chicago that he is very spry post pk block so it had to be slotted. Mulholland only had about a 2 or 3 foot window to put the ball in and he placed it perfectly.

7. Kyle didn’t play like Kyle usually does. He didn’t have a bad game, but KB is usually a beast. Because of him, games rarely get “open” as he just doesn’t allow the other team to run back and forth on us. In this game, though, it got a bit open. This shouldn’t be held against Kyle too much, the guy has logged a ton of minutes. In fact, I think this is the result of KB not having any rest so far this season. I say sit him against Portland. It’s not worth the risk on injury.

8. The RSL second goal was pure determination from 3 RSL players. This goal was one that showed that effort over skill sometimes wins out. Tony Beltran collected a fairly bad wide pass, did well to handle the pressure, then passed off to Velasquez. Vela struggled with the ball but wasn’t going to give up. Him laying out and forcing the ball into the box was huge. Lastly, Javi goes into a tackle he probably loses 9 times out of 10. Berry tried to be cute with the clearance and Javi made him pay. Kyle played the trailer run well and it finished off. But the key to the goal was the work rate even though it wasn’t “pretty” by any means.

9. Philly is a frustrating team. As Matthew – Armchair Analyst – Doyle pointed out following this game, the Philadelphia Union are a frustrating side to get a beat on. This goes for playing against them, too. One moment they are a great wing playing counter team that will kill you with any space. Next thing you know, they’re laying out a forward on the top of the box as  he runs parallel to the goal line. They’re inconsistent within 3 minute spans. They’re a young side trying to find their true identity and it is showing.

10. Our lack of forward depth is catching up to us. This is funny to say after the return of Devon Sandoval, but it’s the truth. Specifically, we don’t have an alternative speed option up top right now. Thus, we’re left choosing between Sabo or Garcia to come off for Sandoval with the player staying on doing at least 85 minutes. This is killing our ability to change dynamics late in games. Understandably, Garcia has been the player being yanked. He tends to run out of gas between minute 60 & 70. The problem this creates is that we have no speed in our front line after the switch. So teams push up on us knowing there isn’t the threat of a one time ball behind hurting them.

11. Sebastian Velasquez return was a welcome surprise. I was happy to see Vela on the bench but I didn’t think he would actually log minutes in this game. You could tell he hadn’t played in a MLS level game in quite some time. His legs got “rubbery” fast and he seemed winded far too soon. That said, his work rate was still there. His skill on the ball wasn’t as sharp as usual, but it was a nice addition. Having Vela play well is a big key to overall success this  year. Javi isn’t able to play as many games – we need a rotation up there. Vela is the guy I think most capable of it.

12. Set piece defense should be on the training “to-do” list this week. I’m not a fan of the way we defend set pieces – specifically corners. I’m going to do a bit more research into this later this week, but I’m curious as to why this team consistently decides to only cover one post. Edu’s goal would have easily been pushed off the line by a guy at the post. Same with Collin’s goal in MLS Cup 2013. Likely it has to do with a decision to put players inside the 6. The matter of fact now, though, is that it isn’t working.

13. Credit to Philly for the response. After we went up early in this game, Philadelphia could have easily folded and called it a night. They showed great fight and (arguably) did enough to possibly even win this game. Credit to Philly for not giving up and credit to RSL for weathering the push enough to salvage a point. In the end, the draw was probably the most just result.

14. This team needs to convert these draws to wins. A lot easier said than done, obviously, but closing the game needs to change. It’s not like the team is tied going into the end and then not having the guts to throw numbers. No, in the 2 games where it felt like RSL really left points on the table they gave up a late equalizer. What needs to change? An installation of a killer instinct. RSL still lacks one and it is what keeps us out of first place in the standings despite being undefeated. We’re like the Portland Timbers of 2013 so far.

15. A win against Portland is a must. It’s way too early in the season to say games are must win. But this Portland game feels like one. All this momentum of not losing needs to be turned into wins. Portland isn’t playing well, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and RSL needs to punish it. Our games with them last year were incredibly fun to watch and we came out ahead in pretty much every single one. We need it again.


Tags: 15 Thoughts Alvaro Saborio Javier Morales Jeff Cassar Kyle Beckerman Major League Soccer MLS Olmes Garcia Real Salt Lake RSL Sebastian Velasquez

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