There’s a rather busy week of soccer in store here in Puget Sound. OL Reign take the pitch at Cheney Stadium on Tuesday night. And in some odd twist of fate Real Salt Lake visits Seattle Sounders on the same night that Real Monarchs SLC visit Tacoma Defiance. Those games both kickoff just after 7 PM PT Wednesday night.
RSL sits with a solid 3-1-3, +4 record that hides a few lies. They’ve only played two road games — a 2-2 draw at Dallas and their season-opening loss at Minnesota. Those two sides are 11th and 13th in the West, respectively. Salt Lake’s best attackers are Damir Kreilach and Rubio Rubin. Together they form a strong foundation for an MLS team. Their expected third piece is underperforming. Once upon a time Albert Rusnák was a double-digit goalscorer in the league. Now he’s a traditional stat bust.
There are injuries, international absences, a need for rotation because of the double match week, and the threat of an impending heat anti-cyclone. Let’s get ready for the best night of soccer we can.
From RSL Soapbox, Matt answers Three Questions.
SaH: I’m old enough to remember when Albert Rusnák was good. What happened?
RSLSB: I suppose it depends on who you ask. The coaching staff, for instance, has been very protective of his performances, and the argument publicly has largely been that he’s meeting expectations. I don’t buy it — like you imply, I think there’s been a significant drop in Rusnak’s performances. It’s easy to blame that on his position somewhat changing — he’s now playing out wide rather than centrally, at least by and large — but the strategy is apparently to have him play as a no. 10 from those positions. (I will say, I don’t entirely understand it, but if it works some day, it could be a real development.)
Saturday actually saw the best Rusnak performance of the year, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was markedly better than we’ve seen so far. It was also against a pretty miserable Vancouver team, so I probably shouldn’t start counting chickens just yet.
SaH: Rubio Rubin went from prospect without performance to the attacking star of San Diego Loyal and now Real Salt Lake. What’s been clicking for the one-time phenom?
RSLSB: I’d love to say that we’ve built to his talents and we lifted him to this level, but Rubin came in firing on all cylinders, and it’s been a real revelation for RSL. It sure feels like he came in particularly motivated (he spoke about considering retirement before he ended up at San Diego), and he’s found success with a team that needed a spark. I’m really curious about two things. First, can he keep it up? Second, how will he and Bobby Wood fit into the same system?
SaH: The defense seems to be succeeding because of the system rather than a single strong player. True? How’s that system work?
RSLSB: That’s a very interesting question. I don’t know that it’s necessarily working because of design, but you’re definitely right that we don’t have a standout player back there. In fact, I’d argue we’ve been lucky thus far. Marcelo Silva has a knack for making reckless mistakes, and he’s one of just three center backs we had on the roster until last week. Aaron Herrera is an excellent right back, but his skills are often best served when he’s attacking. Andrew Brody has slotted in at left back, where he is certainly used more in an attacking role.
In some ways, I think we’ve been a bit fortunate defensively. We’ve somewhat moved away from our possession-focused style, and it sort of feels like broader changes to our team structure are on the horizon. I’ll be really curious about this question later in the season.
Ochoa; Herrera, Silva, Glad, Toia; Ruiz, Luiz; Meram, Kreilach, Rusnak; Rubin