Real Salt Lake Player Grades Versus Sporting Kansas City

Jul 23, 2020, 10:42 AM
Photo courtesy; Real Salt Lake...
Photo courtesy; Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake suffered their first loss in the MLS Is Back tournament after Sporting Kansas City beat the claret and cobalt 2-0 to end the group stage matches. Fortunately, RSL still qualified for the round of 16 where they will play the winners of Group B, the San Jose Earthquakes on July 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Manager Freddy Juarez – B

Juarez altered the lineup drastically for the first time. The strategy was good. RSL controlled the possession which is one of Juarez’s biggest concerns. However, RSL for the second match in a row had a difficult time creating dangerous attacking opportunities. RSL need to be better in the attacking third to solidify themselves as one of the best teams in the league, but until they can figure that out, they will remain as a middle of the league threat.

Goalkeeper Zac MacMath – C

MacMath has played better games for Real in the past, this match was certainly not one of his better performances. With that said, however, the two goals in which he conceded were not his fault. The first goal should have been cleared multiple times, instead, it fell to the left foot of SKC star Johnny Russel who buried the opening goal. The second goal came following poor defending from Donny Toia who let Gerso cut onto his left foot far too easily, the finish was sublime as well. MacMath looked uneasy coming off his line on a number of occasions and was fortunate to not give away a penalty after making contact with an SKC striker’s ankles.

Right-back Aaron Herrera – B+

Herrera is arguably Real Salt Lake’s best player at the minute. The formidable right-back has very few faults. He defends well and also offers plenty when screaming down the right-flank and joining the attack. He is composed and comfortable on the ball and understands how to best utilize space.

Center-back Justen Glad – B

Glad is on the verge of being one of the premiere center-backs in Major League Soccer. His skill set is immense. His speed, ball control and vision allow him to impact games more than most center-backs.

Center-back Erik Holt – B-

Holt is still a young, up and coming center back who is learning the ropes of what being a professional entails. Generally, Holt is very impressive playing the role of the big, strong defender. However, on occasion, he can have a lapse in concentration and let himself and the team down. For example, midway through the second half, he allowed an SKC attacker to run by him far too easily. For someone with his physicality, it is inexcusable. Those mistakes will disappear eventually. Growing pains for Holt as of right now.

Right-midfielder Justin Meram – B

Meram is still working through creating better chemistry with his teammates. He is an experienced veteran in the league and has proven himself on a number of different occasions for a number of different clubs. Meram’s impact against SKC was adequate but was a far stretch from the form we saw him in when he was with the Columbus Crew. When Meram finds a partner in the attacking third to work off, he will excel. Until then, however, he will likely be very hit or miss.

Center-midfielder Everton Luiz B+

Luiz is the glue that holds the midfield together for RSL. The fiery Brazilian helps the team on both the defensive and offensive ends of the pitch. Luiz was not as impactful as he has shown to be but nonetheless was impressive against SKC. Like most Brazilian soccer players, Luiz enjoys floating forward and helping out in the attacking third, but his forte lies in the defensive half.

Center-midfielder Kyle Beckerman – B+

Beckerman was effective and looks to be enjoying his playing time back in the heart of the midfield. Beckerman is playing in his 21st MLS season, a remarkable feat and despite not having the same agility he once had, his leadership is worth its weight in gold.

Left Midfield Corey Baird – B

Once again, Baird’s work rate was world-class. When Baird plays you can always count on his ability to defend and attack. He got himself into dangerous attacking positions against SKC but his final touch let him down. Throughout the tournament, that has been Baird’s downfall. For Baird to take the next step in his career, he must learn to finish off all the hard work he has created.

Striker Damir Kreilach – B

With the absence of Albert Rusnak due to a hip flexor injury, the weight of the attack fell on the shoulders of Kreilach. Against SKC Kreilach struggled to find the ball in dangerous areas, his impact was limited. Kreilach was still able to create chances and looked to be the most dangerous RSL player in the attack.

Striker Sam Johnson – C

Johnson never had an impact. He was ultimately subbed off at half time for Douglas Martinez who appears to be the favorite striker for manager Freddy Juarez. During the first half, Johnson touched the ball no more than five times and never put himself in a position to score.

Bench Impact

Douglas Martinez – B

Martinez came on for Sam Johnson at halftime and immediately offered a spark of energy to the match. Martinez still has plenty of work to do when it comes to his positioning and can often drift to the wings with the hope of finding more space. If Martinez is going to be the next great number nine for RSL, he must learn how to operate in close quarters and beat opposing center backs with his back turned to goal. A fun and exciting prospect nonetheless.

Maikel Chang – B-

Chang came on for Justin Meram and slotted onto the wing. His touch lacked at times. Much like Martinez, Chang still has a lot of learning to do. However, much like Martinez, the upside for Chang is massive.

Pablo Ruiz – B+

Ruiz is quickly becoming a weapon in the RSL midfield. His left foot is pretty and has the ability to flick the ball back and forth across the pitch with speed and precision. Ruiz, however, often finds himself trying to squeeze the ball in windows that are not there. For Ruiz to become more dangerous, he must learn when to take an educated risk and when to play the safe pass.

Giuseppe Rossi – B-

The fans have been itching to see Rossi in action. His fitness is one of the reasons he has been on the bench. Rossi joined the game late in the second half and was thrown into the center attacking midfield role. He was unable to have much of an impact on the game.

Jeizon Ramirez – B+

In the 15 minutes of playing time that Ramirez saw, he was arguably the best player on the pitch. The young Venezuelan is as skilled as any RSL player has ever been. His attacking instinct is impeccable, however, his defensive work rate needs a lot of work. Ramirez has the potential to be as dominant as his fellow countrymen Jefferson Savarino was, but work rate and fitness is letting him down at the minute.

Next Match

RSL will next play the San Jose Earthquakes in the Round of 16. The Quakes won Group B following a 0-0 draw with the reigning MLS Champions the Seattle Sounders, a nailbiting 4-3 victory over Montreal Impact and a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire.

The contest will take place on July 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Tom Hackett is a Utah and Real Salt Lake Insider for and host of the It’s Utah’s World Podcast (Utah Football themed) and The Lion’s Den Podcast (Real Salt Lake themed). Follow him on Twitter: @TomCantHackett. 


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