The build up to the third match of the season continues, as Waking the Red exchanges some questions with SB Nation's Real Salt Lake site, RSL Soapbox.
Question the First
Salt Lake has constantly been forced to evolve over the years, losing key players and managerial figures with every turn of the calendar, only to maintain their lofty position amongst the class of the league. What is their secret? Asking for a friend, who could use some advice...
There are two main reasons for Real Salt Lake's sustained success. The first is that Jason Kreis and Garth Lagerwey gave the club a culture of team-oriented success rather than a big-name DP or star-centric team. Part of that includes investing capital in the residential academy which is widely regarded as one of the top two in the country. The fans have bought in and are fully invested in the culture of the club that really started from scratch.
The other reason is that once RSL found a core of players that could consistently lead the team, they stuck with them. Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando have been compared to Karl Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. Many successful teams across professional sports have that recipe for success. If you have consistent, talented, veteran players you are more likely to be a competitive team year in and year out.
Question the Second
Jeff Cassar made a bold decision to abandon the famed diamond-midfield of Jason Kreis, favouring instead a 4-3-3 so far this season. How has that tinkering been viewed in Salt Lake; is their faith in Cassar's choice, or are some concerned about leaving behind that which brought success?
The change in system was received well by fans overall. As with most things, people don't like change but the RSL front office has made their case as to why this will work and they are pretty convincing. They have also been honest that it will get better over time. This isn't something that they will be fantastic at from the get go. Part of the reason they made the change in formation is that teams were starting to figure out how to paralyze the diamond. This did not happen every game, but when it did it was really frustrating. Typically it would involve teams parking the bus in front of goal and when that happens, there is no use playing the diamond as it requires more of an open game to be its best.
Salt Lake has the players right now that allow them to switch to a 4-3-3. They have very athletic defenders that can recover well. They have three very talented forwards in Joao Plata, Alvaro Saborio, and Sebastian Jaime that once they are have a few games under their belts in this formation will hopefully play very well off of each other. It also affords Javier Morales more space to roam and create.
All that said, it will take a while for the team to really flourish with this change. But I am confident that it will come in the latter half of the season. If for some reason it doesn't pan out, Cassar is going to have a lot of questions to answer.
Question the Third
Like Toronto, Salt Lake will be without several starters for Sunday's match. Who are a few unfamiliar faces that could get a run out – is Devon Sandoval ready to replace Alvaro Saborio? Can Jeff Attinella deputize for Nick Rimando, or is it time to give Lalo Fernandez a look? In that similar spirit, which of the several homegrown players should outsiders be aware of for the future?
Devon Sandoval is the likely candidate to replace Alvaro Saborio. There was even an article about it in the local newspaper, Salt Lake Tribune, touching on Sandoval trying to regain his form of 2014 when he had a fantastic rookie season. Since then he has been in a slump and hasn't been able to get on the stat sheet in any meaningful way. There is an off chance that Jordan Allen gets a shot at some significant minutes up front which I personally would love to see, but it's not as likely. He is one of the homegrowns to keep an eye on going forward. Other homegrowns to watch are Sebastian Saucedo, a local from Park City, Utah that for lack of any other original term, has a nose for goal. Justin Glad is the other academy product that is likely to be a fantastic defender. He has shown very well for himself with the limited first team minutes that he has played.
Jeff Attinella is more than likely to man the posts with Rimando out on national duty. He has had very few slip-ups when he has seen MLS minutes and is a very solid backup keeper.
How does it feel to be a so-called 'small market' team when the 'big' clubs – New York, LA, Seattle, Toronto (ha) – get all the attention?
I can't come up with a good response. Something about RSL's all time record vs. TFC.
Lineup: Attinella, Beltran, Schuler, Olave, Mansally, Beckerman, Mulholland, Morales, Garcia, Sandoval, Jaime.
Goalscorer(s): Morales, Jaime
Enjoy the match!