Real Salt Lake To Be Forced Into Lineup Changes With Upcoming Condensed Schedule

Oct 13, 2021, 2:39 PM | Updated: 2:39 pm
Everton Luiz and teammates run during training on Wednesday, October 13. Photo courtesy: Real Salt ...
Everton Luiz and teammates run during training on Wednesday, October 13. Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Believe it or not, Real Salt Lake only has six regular-season games remaining. However, those six games will come during a chaotic 22-day stretch.

Chaotic Home Stretch Starts Saturday

The average time between games for Real Salt Lake to close out the 2021 Major League Soccer regular season is just 3.6 days.

The first of the six fixtures will take place this Saturday, October 16th, when they host the Colorado Rapids in a game that will determine the winner of the Rocky Mountain Cup. Then, a week following they travel to Chicago. Following the trip to Chicago, Real Salt Lake will have midweek games the rest of the way, starting with an away fixture in Dallas on October 27. Their second-to-last home fixture comes on October 30th against San Jose, before hosting Portland just four days later on November 3rd before they close out the regular season on the road against Sporting Kansas City on November 7th.

The condensed schedule will force Real Salt Lake to utilize a variety of players. Fortunately, the health of Real Salt Lake is trending in the right direction as the likes of Bobby Wood and Andrew Brody are expected to play significant minutes down the stretch following long stints on the sideline.

“With the likes of Bobby [Wood] coming back, [Andrew] Brody coming back, it definitely allows for a lot of flexibility in those [lineups]. We have played in the four the first two games when I was named as the interim and I thought the Dallas game we played really well. We have played in the three and have had some really good performances,” Mastroeni said when asked on the possible lineup changes. “Again, I think the overarching thing is the principles that we want to establish in the attack and in the defense and really the three and the four become just a tactical adjustment more than anything else but what can’t change in those tactical adjustments is the mentality,” Mastroeni added.

Mentality > Tactics For Mastroeni

As has often been the case under Mastroeni, the tactical elements of his leadership play second-fiddle to the mentality of the group. It appears that Mastroeni is adamant that the tactical element of the game is irrelevant if the players on the pitch are not up for the challenge internally.

Will we see Bobby Wood and Rubio Rubin up top alongside one and another? How does the shape of the team alter when Everton Luiz is not in the midfield? Can the likes of Nick Besler and Pablo Ruiz provide enough coverage to maintain a solid defensive structure? And will Toni Datkovic finally look comfortable playing alongside Erik Holt in a back three?

All of these questions will likely be answered over the upcoming 22-day home stretch. Mastroeni will be forced to play a handful of players that he may not feel overly comfortable with simply due to the need for rest with his other more established veterans.

Without question, when the 2021 regular season concludes, Real Salt Lake fans will have a solid understanding of the depth of this team, that is, if they do not have one already.

As it currently stands, Real Salt Lake is in the fifth position in the west tied with LA Galaxy on 39 points. However, just two points separate the eighth-placed Vancouver and Real Salt Lake.

If Real Salt Lake is to solidify itself as a post-season club they must rely on unsung heroes to play pivotal roles.

Colorado Match Info

Real Salt Lake will host Colorado Rapids on Saturday, October 16 at 7:30 p.m.

The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.

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