What To Do With Jonathan Menéndez & How Mastroeni Fits Him Into New Shape Of Real Salt Lake

Oct 18, 2021, 4:20 PM
Real Salt Lake - Jonathan Menendez...
Real Salt Lake midfielder Jonathan Menendez (10) gets taken down by Austin FC midfielder Alexander Ring (8) as Real Salt Lake and Austin FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. RSL won 1-0. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake is humming following their prolific 3-1 win over rivals Colorado and look poised to make a serious playoff run under the new leadership, albeit on an interim basis, of Pablo Mastroeni.

But one big question still remains, how can Mastroeni find a role for talented winger Jonathan Menéndez? Since Mastroeni took charge on August 27, Menéndez has only seen minutes in five of the nine games, and of the last five games, Menéndez has only played a combined 58 minutes from a possible 450.

Menéndez On The Pine

Menéndez was bought using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and was brought into the club with the expectation of playing a lot of minutes, scoring or assisting a lot of goals, and being a key figure on the pitch for Real Salt Lake.

However, with the new shape of the team, Menéndez has been left out to dry.

The reasons behind Menéndez’s absence are simple to understand, Menéndez is a winger by trade and the 3-5-2 formation does not provide a position suitable for the skillset of Menéndez.

The 3-5-2 formation relies on the attacking full-backs to create the width for the team. The likes of Aaron Herrera and Andrew Brody are responsible for filling in the spaces out wide when Real Salt Lake attacks.

However, Mastroeni has played the likes of Justin Meram and Maikel Chang at the left-fullback position. Why is Menéndez being overlooked by the likes of Meram and Chang?

That is a question only Mastroeni can answer. My theory is that Meram and Chang are more disciplined from a defensive standpoint.

So if Menéndez isn’t going to play as a full-back, where else could he play?

The Number 10 Role

The most likely position for Menéndez to play is at the number 10, the position Albert Rusnák occupies, and although it seems unlikely that Menéndez is going to replace Rusnák as the full-time playmaker of the team he will likely have an opportunity given the congested upcoming schedule.

It would make the most sense to play Menéndez as the attacking-midfielder position when Rusnák needs to rest. Then, assuming Real Salt Lake qualifies for the playoffs, Menéndez can play a role off the bench when Real Salt Lake needs a spark.

The other alternative is that Menéndez plays alongside Damir Kreilach at the point of attack. However, Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood are far more qualified to play at the point of attack than Menéndez is. Mastroeni has also found Anderson Julio to provide heroics off the bench when he is in need of fresh legs at the point of attack.

It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out. The bottom line is that Menéndez is too talented and is paid too much money to sit on the pine, he has to have a role.

If I were in Mastroeni’s shoes, I would play Menéndez at the 10 against FC Dallas on October 27th to see how he handles himself. Assuming the rehearsal goes to plan, Mastroeni can always bring Menéndez off the bench for Rusnák late in games or alter the shape of the team and play Menéndez alongside Rusnák as two center-attacking midfielders when Real Salt Lake is searching for goals.

Next Fixture

Real Salt Lake will travel to Chicago for a date with the Fire this upcoming Saturday, October 23rd.

It will be the final time this season that Real Salt Lake gets a week to prepare for their next fixture. The final four games will be played over a grueling two-week stretch.

Real Salt Lake versus Chicago 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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What To Do With Jonathan Menéndez & How Mastroeni Fits Him Into New Shape Of Real Salt Lake