Kam's Corner: No Need to Panic
At the start of the season, it’s really hard to tell which
teams will be going to the playoffs and which ones are going to be towards the
bottom by year’s end. Everybody talks about who is off to a quick start and who
is struggling right out of the gate. But I think one month is just too soon to
tell about a side long-term … for me, it’s the first ten games that are a telling
sign of where a team is at – and, even then, sometimes that stretch isn’t long
That is why RSL fans should not press the panic button about
their team’s slow start … a slow start record-wise, at least. There have been plenty of teams that have had
similar starts and ended up being the kings of the league. Real Salt Lake is 1-2-1 (and could have been
1-3-0 had it not been for the late heroics of Álvaro Saborío), but with that
said the squad has played some great soccer.
It definitely has been the better team in three of its first four games,
and I felt that RSL was outplayed only in L.A. last weekend, partly due to
tired legs from their Open Cup victory in San Jose three days earlier.
Defensively, RSL has been very sharp, giving up only 14
shots on goal across four games – which includes the two penalties from the
Houston match. I would think any coach might be thrilled about allowing an average
of only three shots on goal per game defensively. And it’s not just the
backline getting those results, as the whole team has been doing a great job of
closing the ball down all over the field.
When Real Salt Lake has had the ball, its possession has
been great. No matter who RSL has had in
the line-up, their movement of the ball has created holes in the opponent’s
defense. They have carried the run of play,
as I stated earlier.
If there is a “needs improvement” aspect of RSL’s game, it
would be the way it plays in the final third of the field; the squad has not
been particularly sharp around the box, where too many passes have been off the
mark. I also believe the willingness to
get numbers around the box needs to get better … with a great example being
Will Johnson’s goal against Seattle, when RSL had four or five guys around the
box. There simply needs to be a greater sense of urgency when the team pushes into
the final third.
So calm down folks, there’s no need to panic. There’s still
a lot of season left and, perhaps more importantly, this is not the RSL of
years past. Continuity is the key word this season, and if the guys can put the
“final third” aspect together we will see a team that can far surpass the one that
raised expectations so highly last year.