Real Salt Lake Hoping To Build On Fast Start As Earthquakes Loom
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake will host San Jose Earthquakes this Friday evening in a fixture that will have the entire league paying attention.
RSL remains as the only team in Major League Soccer yet to drop a point in 2021, while San Jose enters the match on a two-win streak and in superb goal-scoring form.
RSL has revolutionized the way they play. Manager Freddy Juarez has utilized the offseason additions and transformed the manner in which RSL attacks. Historically, RSL has always been a dominant defensive unit and has continued that trend in 2021. However, it is the attacking prowess from the likes of Rubio Rubin and Anderson Julio that have transformed the attacking third of the pitch.
Both Rubin and Julio have scored two goals on the season. Rubin is also credited with two assists. The electric pace of Julio has caused headaches for opposing defenses, while, the ability of Rubin to play as a true number nine and not a false nine, has opened various avenues for RSL to attack through.
Furthermore, the ball has been transitioning from the back half into the attacking third swiftly and it generally begins with Pablo Ruiz. The left foot of Ruiz has proven to be an incredibly valuable weapon for RSL. He moves the ball across the pitch in all directions, he has a license to flick the ball where he sees the space and when Julio gets on his bike it is nearly impossible to stop.
The only concern RSL currently faces is the depth in the heart of the midfield. Everton Luiz will miss a number of weeks after injuring his knee in training last week, it remains unknown as to how long he will be sidelined.
Other injury concerns are Aaron Herrera and Anderson Julio. Herrera was subbed off in the 30th minute last week against Sporting Kansas City with a quad injury while Julio was subbed off in the same game with hamstring tightness. However, both players were not listed on the most recent injury report by the club.
San Jose is the most unique team in MLS. Led by manager Matías Almeyda, the Earthquakes are relentless in their pursuit of goals.
Firstly, the Quakes man-mark when the opposing team is looking to move the ball into their attacking half. Unlike every other MLS team that runs a zone defensive scheme, San Jose opts to go man-to-man.
Ultimately, that means that for RSL to have success against San Jose on Friday evening they will need to find ways to beat San Jose on the dribble. If Andrew Brody can replicate was he was able to accomplish playing right-back against SKC last week, then RSL will find themselves in many goal-scoring opportunities.
Secondly, when San Jose forces opposing teams to turn the ball over, they send more numbers forward than any other team. This tactic is a page out of Marcelo Bielsa’s book. Interestingly, Almeyda played for Argentina when Bielsa was the coach, which explains why San Jose looks like MLS’s version of Leeds United.
If RSL turns the ball over in their defensive half, they will likely be punished more often than not by the lucrative Quake strikers.
The class in which San Jose possesses in their attacking third is lethal. Headlined by Cristian Espinoza on the wing, Javier Eduardo López as the attacking midfielder, and their 17-year old striker Cade Cowell. Combined the trio has already equated for four goals and Cowell alone has three assists to his name through three games.
RSL will need to be solid in possession, they will need to control the tempo and speed of the contest and methodically march their way down the pitch. San Jose’s biggest weapon is their transition. So, assuming RSL can hold onto the football, they should be able to comfortably hold San Jose at bay.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. You can stream the match for free via the KSL 5 TV app or on KSLSports.com.