After the Saturday three-nil loss the game is merely at halftime. Leg two involves odds stacked against Seattle, but there are a few reasons for hope. While the Seattle Sounders will have to change things up tactically, changes are being forced on Real Salt Lake Coach Jason Kreis by injuries to the best center defensive pairing in MLS. How those changes will effect this game are the subject of today's two question update on last week's five questions discussing the two leg aggregate series.
SaH: Is Kreis the type of coach that will change his playing style to protect the lead?
RSLSoapBox: No I don't expect that he will, he knows that for RSL to play their best they need to stick to what they do well, creating possession and opportunities by quick short passes, I do think that you might actually see a more aggressive RSL given the fact that they know that the Sounders are going to have to push and push hard for goals which could really create some counter attacking challenges. I think any tactical changes will be made to deal with injuries, a short playoff schedule, and the Field Turf at CenturyLink.
SaH: How will the possible losses of both Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers change RSL's approach to the match?
RSLSB: If we have to go without both of them, you might see a bit of a more "behind the ball" mentality, but I doubt that you will see the team go without both of them. Without knowing much about their injury status (beyond game day decision), I have to think RSL might rest Olave if they can. His history of knee injuries usually means we try to rest him on turf, and with this injury if there is any way Borchers can go, I would expect that Jamison might just be siting this one out. We have seen that Chris Schuler is ready for prime time (yes I think we will protect him during the expansion draft, I know I would), so if we just lose one guy then I think we are good. The option of moving Chris Wingert to a central position isn't out of the question if Tony Beltran is ready to go, same goes for Robbie Russell.
I do think that the RSL players are aware of what the reality of protecting a 3 goal lead means and while I doubt any of them will admit to playing a bit more defensive minded, each of them probably will simply because of the reality of the situation.
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RSLSB: We know that Seattle will have to change their gameplan from Saturday, what changes do you see that can be made that might lead to recovering from the 3 goal deficit?
SaH: Considering that Saturday's gameplan seemed to be "give it to RSL and watch them play" yes, it will change. Ideally Seattle will return to the things that caused them to be so extraordinary from August to just prior to kickoff last week. They need to be a ball-at-feet team even on the counter that mixes in direct play to speed guys on occasion rather than trying to punt it down range so often. That will require better off-ball movement, more patience and using the strength of Alvaro Fernandez and Fredy Montero's passing skills.
Since Sammy Ochoa wasn't able to handle the physical nature of defense there will be a likely shift to the stronger and faster Mike Fucito. He must create space by using that speed and runs, even if he doesn't get the ball. If he can do that it will force a defender or two to track him granting space to Montero. It is a technique that was worked in other three+ goal games. Sigi will also need to get better service from corner kicks. Playing Fucito and probably Tyson Wahl does that. Even Nat Borchers said that RSL was lucky to get away without giving up a goal. Five blocked shots and a couple near misses show that even at their worst Seattle had opportunities. Wednesday night they'll have to be at their best.
RSLSB: A couple of roster choices surprised me, first I was surprised the Erik Friberg who has impressed me all year wasn't a part of the starting lineup and then when down a couple goals there was no Nate Jaqua, who has been a real RSL killer in the past with 6 goals and 2 assists in 941 minutes of play for various teams. Do you think either of them will play a bigger role on Wednesday?
SaH: When both Friberg and Brad Evans are healthy at the same time who starts has been more of a tactical decision. Friberg offers better service of a dead ball, better dribble skills and operates as a more central player with a bit of on ball defense. Evans is a slightly stronger passer, extraordinary off ball movement guy and better tactical defender. He's also better at penalties. There's a decent chance that both start, especially since part of the issue was poor passing, particularly by Lamar Neagle. If only one starts staff at SaH is split on who they would rather see.
While Nate Jaqua might have once been an RSL killer he's just had a plain poor season. In all comps he's only got 2 goals and 6 assists in 13 starts and 16 sub appearances. His touch in the box this season has been dreadful when shooting and his most effective offensive skill right now is a chest pass going about 4 yards. While he can still play a role on a good team, it isn't as a starter. If you see him in the second leg it is likely as a late game replacement for a midfielder, maybe in extra time for a little more set-play strength. But Schmid isn't going to plan with Jaqua in mind. The plan is going to be to ride players like Montero, Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso and having one member of their supporting cast step up and write history.