Know your enemy: Scouting Real Salt Lake


The Philadelphia Union look to turn around their recent rough patch of games against Real Salt Lake. Philadelphia’s recent struggling streak is troubling. The Union were very bad last week after playing two road games, one in which they played 120 minutes. If they want to get back to the top of the east they are going to need to find a way to fix their recent formation problems. That being said, they are going to have their hands full with Salt Lake. Even though the western conference team has not had a win since June 22nd, they still are one of the most lethal attacking teams in MLS. Salt Lake is on a bit of a slump; in their last five games they have four ties and one loss. So how can the Union fix their current issues and stop the RSL attack? Here’s a scouting report on RSL and their past few games.

In their past five games, Real Salt Lake has been like Dr. Jekyll and  Mr. Hyde. They make amazing offensive plays with the ball, and make soccer look easy, but also have major problems with team defense and restarts.  To see these drastic ends to the team we have to look at their past games.

July 1st vs DC United 1-1 Draw:

This game showed three main things about RSL. The first is that this team has a scary front three attackers. Juan Martínez, Yura Movsisyan, and Joao Plata can create chances easily. The Three are all smart on the ball and know where the other two are at all times. They created this gem of a goal against DC United; the Union will have to stifle these three players if they are to come away with a good result. The Second is that this team loves to get possession and push players forward. They are very skilled when on the ball, and their midfielders, and wing defenders support their three amazing attackers well. If this team is allowed to keep possession they will dominate the game.

That being said this game also showed a weak link for RSL. That is the third take away from this game; Salt Lake are lazy on corners and set pieces. They gave away a late corner to DC in stoppage time. When the ball was sent in the defense stood still, and allowed a free runner to head an uncontested ball into the net from their six yard box. This is very telling, if the Union find themselves down on Sunday they are going to have to try to get back in the by making the most of their set pieces.

July 9th vs Montreal Impact 1-1 Draw:

This game shows some similar traits from their last match.  In the first ten minutes of the game Montreal had a free kick a ball was sent in on frame, and was saved by keeper Nick Rimando, but their was a rebound given up, and Harry Shipp scored for Montreal.  Agin this team shows that they will give up set piece opportunities, and second chances to teams. The Union will need to exploit that to have a better chance at getting three points.

After conceding their goal RSL dominated possession and the game. They found a second half equalizer after forcing Montreal into conceding a PK. RSL’s build up and combination play forced a Montreal defender to slide into Joao Plata, and Movsisyan converted the penalty to secure a draw.  This shows the Union how good RSL is when they have possession, after conceding in the first ten minutes they pretty much locked down Montreal, you know the team we just lost to 5-1. If Salt Lake is allowed to have the majority of possession the Union will not be able to play much of a factor in the game.

July 13th at Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Loss:

This game and result is the blueprint for the Union to be successful against RSL. In this one, Salt Lake was pressed by Vancouver. They showed that when pressed they can panic, and make bad decisions. In the first half, RSL was pressed into a turnover in their defensive third. Vancouver smelled the blood in the water, and had numbers going forward. A low cross into the box was met by a sliding Vancouver and RSL player. The ball ended up hitting the RSL player and going into their own net. The Union will need to press this RSL team if they want to win; Vancouver showed them how.

In the game, just a few minutes later, Vancouver was given a free kick. Salt Lake dealt with it, but allowed Vancouver a second chance. RSL stayed flat and inside the box, and allowed Vancouver to set up a shot from distance. The shot was a beautiful goal second goal. This is a habit of Salt Lake; they are slow to react to second chances off of set pieces. If the Union can press them and get chances that way, and also win the second chances off of set pieces they will be able to get a favorable result Sunday.

July 16th vs New England Revolution 0-0 Draw:

This game produced nothing on the scoreboard, but showed the skill and depth of RSL. Salt Lake made six chances in this match, and looked like the better team on the day. Even their bench players have the skill to support their attacking players. This game showcased the possession skills RSL has. They were passing circles around New England’s defense, but just couldn’t find the finishing touch. They were skillful on the ball, and off it; they never stop moving while on the offensive.  If the Union’s defense and midfield play as bad as they did last weekend then whoever RSL puts on the field Sunday night will be able to find a way to create very dangerous chances.

RSL’s defense was still flat in this one. They let up, a later disallowed, goal to an on-rushing Kei Kamara after a ball was played in behind their back four.  If the Union can play their game when on the ball they should be able to find these seems in the flat RSL back line, and create chances. RSL’s back for have been consistently flat, and lat to react for over a month now; Philly needs to capitalize on this.

July 22nd vs San Jose 1-1 draw:

REAL SALT LAKE GIVES UP SECOND CHANCES ON SET PIECES! This is the fifth straight game that RSL let up a goal from a corner or set piece. This time a San Jose corner was sent in, and it hit an RSL player who couldn’t clear the ball. The ball bounced to Wondo who put it in the net.  The Union need to make the most of these chances Sunday. Salt Lake will give up the chances the Union have to pounce on them to get the result they want! They wont get a good result if they do what San Jose did in the second half.

In the second half of this contest Salt lake found a bit more of the possession, and they turned on the juice after the first ten minutes of the half. San Jose let Salt lake transition into their defensive third with ease, and RSL used their skill to score. A chip over the back four from Morales fell to the on rushing Mullholland who put the ball past the San Jose keeper. San Jose fell asleep defensively and payed the price. The Union cannot afford to Sunday night.

The know that Salt Lake is good on the ball, have good attackers, and skillful passing. They also know that their back four are a bit flat, and that RSL gives up set piece chances and second chances. IF the Union wan to win they will try to keep the majority of the possession, and press Salt lake in their half when they don’t have possession. If they are successful in doing this they should be able to find goals and get a win that they desperately need. The game is Sunday night at 7 PM EST; lets hope our boys can bounce back from a hard past week against a very formidable western conference foe.


Photo credit: Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images North America