SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake beat Minnesota United last weekend despite implementing a strategy and structure that goes against their ideal way of playing.
Every week offers a new opponent in MLS, which in turn, requires RSL to alter their playing style. Last week against Minnesota, RSL played a counter-attacking brand of soccer as Minnesota is a team that enjoys controlling possession, especially when playing at home.
Want, Not Need, The Ball
Ultimately, in an ideal world, RSL would control the possession and tempo of the game.
“We want the ball,” Manager Freddy Juarez told the media on Tuesday, April 27. “We definitely look for possession on the day-to-day. I would prefer my team and when I played, to control the ball. I fell in love with the game because of the ball. That is what we want to do, but, there are going to be moments when we don’t and an example would be going to Minnesota,” he added.
It already appears that RSL is a vastly different team than they were a year ago. Last season, RSL lost many games despite leading in the possession tally, already this year the possession count will likely not be nearly as important as it relates to getting a result.
RSL has evolved into a multi-dimensional team than can win in a multitude of ways. The speed of Anderson Julio and Rubio Rubin make counter-attacking very dangerous for RSL as they displayed a week ago.
Utilizing Space In The Attacking Half
Going forward, RSL will be okay when playing teams that dominate the possession. Whereas last year, if RSL didn’t have the ball they didn’t look dangerous and didn’t look like getting a result at all.
How will RSL look to progress the ball forward when controlling the possession? That is yet to be answered, however, this upcoming weekend against Sporting Kansas City will likely prove vital in understanding more about how RSL intends on moving the ball up the pitch.
Sporting Kansas City is not a team that relies on controlling the ball and should concede possession to RSL on the road.
This weekend will be important for RSL to showcase its ability to score goals whilst in control of the game. Scoring on the counter attack is one thing, but being soring when the opposition has 11 players in a defensive position can be challenging and requires patience and pinpoint passing. Manchester City is currently the club that does this the best under Pep Guardiola, who is known for his tika taka style of soccer.
Moving the ball through the attacking half when counter attacking can be easier because generally there is more space to utilize when doing so. But navigating through a defensive structure that is already set can be more difficult as there is less space to operate in. Finding those pockets and being skillful enough to pass through them will be crucial for RSL if they beat SKC this upcoming weekend.
Furthermore, regardless if RSL fails to control the ball the club can still have success on the pitch. Ultimately, RSL can now alter their strategy and still get a result, something they could not do a year ago.
RSL and Sporting Kansas City will kickoff at noon on Saturday, May 1st. The game is available to stream for free on the KSL 5 TV app or on KSLSports.com.