SANDY — There's been a lot of talk the past couple months about the disappearing act of Real Salt Lake's attack.
The solution was pretty simple on Saturday, something coach Jason Kreis has been seeking for quite some time — RSL finally got some numbers involved in the attack on a consistent basis. The result was a 2-1 victory over Portland, its first multi-goal game in MLS play in nearly two months.
"We just got more numbers involved tonight, there were more options for players when they were on the ball to find passes. We created a lot of very, very good chances, through just passing and moving and being dynamic in the attacking third of the field, which is what I prefer," said Kreis.
It's probably not a coincidence that it happened without Alvaro Saborio on the field.
Prior to Saturday's game, Nat Borchers admitted the team had become a bit too reliant on Saborio's big body up top. Saborio is only as good as the number of attacking players around him, and lately RSL's wide midfielders have been slow to join the attack.
"We haven't been getting the right numbers of players involved to be dynamic and to really cause our opponents difficulties in the defensive third of the field," said Kreis.
Will Johnson has said on multiple occasions he'd love to join attack more frequently, but said his top priority is defending.
When you consider the turmoil RSL's defense went through this summer with injuries to Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler, it's no wonder players like Johnson and Ned Grabavoy hesitate pushing forward more often.
With a healthy Olave and Schuler back in the fold, and RSL's defense seemingly back to its old ways, don't be surprised if you see RSL's midfielders playing higher over the final month of the season. That should make RSL a more dynamic attacking team with or without Saborio.
RSL's leading scorer missed Saturday's game with the sprained shoulder he suffered in last Tuesday's victory in Panama. Team trainers originally speculated he'd be out two to four weeks. There was speculation Saborio might play on Saturday, but Kreis said that wasn't realistic even though Saborio was willing to play through the pain.
"We weren't going to take that risk tonight. This isn't the end-all, be-all game for us tonight," said Kreis after the match. "If it had been, maybe we would have. I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for somebody that really wants to get out there and help the team, but the right decision for the team was to not risk him," said Kreis.
Without Saborio everyone else picked up the slack, something Real Salt Lake will need to continue to do with three straight road games upcoming at Chivas USA, Los Angeles and Seattle.