SANDY — Real Salt Lake spent a good chunk of Thursday’s practice trying to simulate what it will face against the Colorado Rapids and its five-man backline this weekend.
Throughout the session, coach Mike Petke highlighted areas RSL might be able to exploit in building the attack, but just as many areas of potential weakness if his team gets stretched.
With a full week to prepare, the players will be armed with plenty of information as they take the field this Saturday for the first meeting this season against their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals.
RSL’s ability to adjust on the fly will be just as important as a week's worth of prep.
“Tactics are there for us to take into each game but obviously once a game goes on things can change,” said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
On a couple of occasions this season — particularly last week against New York City FC — RSL has struggled with those in-game adjustments and it's paid the price.
New York City hit Real Salt Lake with more long balls than it was expecting last week, and it contributed to a very lopsided 4-0 loss.
“You work on something through the week and you believe in it, and then when kind of things go south or they break you down in a way that maybe you didn’t think they were going to break you down, you have to adjust. And I think New York we didn’t adjust as quick as we should’ve,” said Rimando. “But we stuck (with it) because you always want to believe in the system and believe in the tactics that we have for that game.”
Those tactics went out the window at New York within a half hour as Real Salt Lake found itself trailing 2-0 and chasing the game. That was even more so at halftime when it trailed 3-0.
Earlier this season in a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles FC, RSL again found itself chasing a game in the second half after some first-half surprises allowed the visitors to build an early lead.
“When you go two goals down it’s tough to stay in what you’re doing because it’s not working. There’s a lot that goes into changing tactics and the flow of the game and trying to figure out a team,” said Rimando.
In wins over New York Red Bulls and Vancouver this season, Real Salt Lake’s initial approach and then in-game adjustments were both successful.
Colorado will present unique challenges that Real Salt Lake hasn’t seen this season, and sticking to the game plan and then making the necessary adjustments will be key as it looks to bounce back from last week’s disappointing performance at New York.
“We trust what the coaches say, and now it’s on us to do our part and bring it to the game,” said Rimando.