Commentary: Narrow field hinders Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake unveiled their third kit, “Victory Gold,” for the match against the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday. Unfortunately, the team’s new outfit did not live up to its name, and RSL managed only a 1-1 draw in the encounter.
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The defending MLS champions are chasing the league-leading LA Galaxy and went into Community America Ballpark in Kansas City looking for three points that would help close the gap. RSL have stated that winning the Supporters' Shield is one of their goals for the season, and any points on the road are usually welcome.
The result does pull RSL within five points of the Galaxy, but with LA’s recent departure from Champions League play, and Real Salt Lake about to step into that competition beginning next week, it’s likely to be an uphill battle to close that gap.
The venue appeared to take away one of RSL’s competitive advantages – their speed. The small field wasn’t really conducive to the RSL style of play.
“There isn’t going to be a lot of possession on a field like that,” said defender Nat Borchers after the game. “When you play on a field that small it changes things.”
Real Salt Lake like to give Javier Morales some space to operate, with a lot of interchange and short passing in the midfield, and the narrow field in Kansas City didn’t allow for that.
Instead, the game became more of a ping-pong match, with the ball switching ends very quickly and having much less flow than the visitors would have liked.
Nonetheless, RSL don't walk away from the match disappointed.
“The road team always has a good feeling if they get a result on the
road,” said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We definitely went out to win
the game, but we wanted to be mature enough that if we got to a certain
time in the game, to say, ‘Let’s take this point and get out of here.’ I
thought we showed some maturity tonight by doing that.”
Coach Jason Kreis took some heat after Real Salt Lake’s last road game against Dallas – some of it self-imposed – for coming out with a conservative approach and a 4-5-1 lineup. Despite some talk of a similar approach this week, RSL lined up with their familiar 4-4-2 diamond formation and managed to get numbers forward with some regularity.
Striker Robbie Findley took advantage of the aggressive approach and netted the equalizer in the first half with a header off of a cross by Robbie Russell. The goal was the fifth in the last seven league matches for the US international.
“I’m just feeling pretty confident right now,” Findley said on the KALL700 radio station after the match.
All four of the forwards on the Real Salt Lake roster saw action in this match, with Fabian Espindola and Pablo Campos coming on in the second half. Their appearance was likely a dress rehearsal for the team’s upcoming match against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.
Findley will be with the USMNT on Tuesday night. Though he is expected to join RSL in Philly, his ability to participate is in doubt.
Alvaro Saborio, on the other hand, will be wearing the Costa Rican colors on Wednesday in a friendly against Paraguay.
Despite the absences, RSL will carry their now 3-4-2 road record to Philadelphia, where they will look live up to their third kit’s name and leave the City of Brotherly Love with nothing short of a victory.