Something seems a bit different with Real Salt Lake this season, but it is hard to put a finger on. Sure, they still have Kyle Beckerman bossing the midfield, Nick Rimando making one big save after another, and Javi Morales pulling the strings in the attack. But the 2015 version of RSL just isn't the same as in previous years. Why?
To get more information on the San Jose Earthquakes opponent this Sunday, Center Line Soccer reached out to RSL Soapbox to get their answers to some probing questions. Insights? You bet! So please read on for some quick insights into Real Salt Lake.
1) Real Salt Lake has been known for years as a team that likes to possess the ball and control the center of the midfield. Is that that still the modus operandi in Sandy, or has head coach Jeff Cassar changed the system at RSL?
RSL Soapbox: My sense early on is that the focus is shifting slightly to more of top-heavy approach and a bit less of a possession-oriented approach. That is not to say that RSL will not try to possess the ball and make good passing decisions to wear teams out, but I'd the first three games of this season have been any indication, the possession battle seems to matter a little less than in years past. That said, the formation change is due to personnel strengths and Cassar has said the diamond is still a weapon up their sleeve. Who knows when he will use it again?
2) Earthquakes fans are familiar with the exploits of Tommy Thompson with the U-20 men's national team, but what should they know about Luis Gil, both for club and country?
RSL Soapbox: Luis Gil, by all accounts, is poised for a breakout season. He was hampered by a nagging injury for the better part of last year and was never really able to get in rhythm. He is truly a team player with playmaking ability. He regularly captains the US teams that he has been a part of. Honestly, the biggest impediment to him driving the TSL offense is a guy named Javier Morales who just seems to be getting better every year. Morales has had career seasons the past couple seasons. It looks like the coaching staff is committed to giving Gil consistent minutes this year so the jury's out on his potential.
3) A lot of eyebrows were raised when center back Nat Borchers departed for Portland. Has the RSL defense lost a step in replacing the Wildling with former MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave?
Personally, I don't think RSL has lost a step. The difference between Borchers and Olave are positioning and smarts versus freakish athleticism and presence. At worst, RSL came out even at the end of the day. At best, the Chris Schuler-Jamison Olave partnership could be one of the best CB partnerships in the league with a bit of experience together. I think RSL has to pull the trigger on Borchers before his stock went down.
Projected Real Salt Lake Starting XI