clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Real Salt Lake's new players, formation on display in Desert Diamond Cup opener

Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, second from left, talks to Javier Morales, left, during a stop in play in the first half as teammates Luke Mulholland, second from right, and Nat Borchers walk behind them, in the second leg of an MLS soccer Western Confer
Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman, second from left, talks to Javier Morales, left, during a stop in play in the first half as teammates Luke Mulholland, second from right, and Nat Borchers walk behind them, in the second leg of an MLS soccer Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, in Carson, Calif.
Danny Moloshok, AP

With one match in the preseason Desert Diamond Cup under its belt, the look of Real Salt Lake's squad is starting to come together.

The starting lineup in the 1-0 win over the New England Revolution on Wednesday was a nominally new one playing in a 4-3-3 — bands of three forwards, three midfielders and four defenders. The formation provided a new look for the club that focused so strongly on playing in a diamond midfield in the past.

Each swathe of the formation has taken a new look, and each group of players might find their roles changing as the preseason progresses. This is, of course, excepting the goalkeepers, who generally play the same tactical role.

While the 11 players that ended the match were connected to those that played the first 60 minutes by goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, it's that first group that deserve a closer look.

Defenders

The back four deployed by Real Salt Lake featured two newcomers, Boyd Okwuonu and Elias Vasquez, alongside third-year defender Aaron Maund and fourth-year left back Abdoulie Mansally. The shape was somewhat asymmetric, with Mansally at left back playing very high on the flank and Okwuonu at right back in a more reserved role.

Aaron Maund looked a little shaky, which isn't a big surprise considering he's coming off a season where he rarely played. Aside from one or two difficult moments, he performed ably. Elias Vasquez, his central partner, was very proactive in his defending, stepping into position to break up attacks and clearing trouble in a particularly harried first half.

Mansally appeared to take a step up from some of his difficult moments last season, and maybe part of that was because he was in a more attack-oriented role. Okwuonu wasn't the strongest attacker, but for a rookie that played center back for most of the last four years, a period of transition is inevitable.

Midfielders

The middle consisted of John Stertzer in a more reserved role, Luke Mulholland as a connective piece, and Lucas Baldin playing further forward in the attack. Stertzer played a more (Kyle) Beckerman-esque role, while Baldin was the (Javier) Morales equivalent, with Mulholland wearing the captain's armband in the middle.

All three had difficult tasks, and for the first 30 minutes, there were some real difficulties figuring out their individual roles. Baldin was sometimes too wide or too high up the pitch, Stertzer wasn't carrying the ball confidently up the pitch, and Mulholland was left trying to do too much. Once they meshed, especially as the second half started, RSL looked dangerous in attack and creativity.

Forwards

The forward line is least inexperienced, and it showed, with second-year player Jordan Allen playing on the left wing, first-year professional Sebastian Saucedo on the right flank, and third-year striker Devon Sandoval in the middle.

All three exhibited positive qualities despite their collective inexperience, with Allen and Saucedo opening opportunities frequently from wide positions. With the midfield struggling early on, Sandoval was forced to play in deeper positions to try to provide continuity, which he did about as well as he could have considering the difficulty of the task. Once the midfield sorted itself out, the forward line flowed.

Matt Montgomery is the managing editor of RSL Soapbox. Contact him at montgomery.matt@gmail.com.