Monday, August 25, 2008

A Real World Review

A Real World Review
By oussan

Key developments: The roster is still not complete, but Jamison Olave returned from suspension and Andy Williams came back to the team after finding success with the Jamaican nats. Additionally, Real Salt Lake aquired forward Will Johnson from Chicago. Jami and Andy's return to the lineup still wasn't enough to help the team get a result against a top Eastern Conference club, however, as RSL's road woes fell to a new low on Saturday.

What's right in the Real World: Not a whole lot at the moment. Espindola seems to be returning to form, but lacks a supporting cast. Findley is showing signs that he has matured - his touch and control have improved vastly since the beginning of the season, but he still seems to perform better up top than in the middle, where he was played in Columbus. Cutler played well enough in the middle, and contributed nicely on defense, but missed a great opportunity for a goal in the 45th minute.

RSL continues to benefit from a weak Western Conference - so for now, fans can continue to ignore that nagging feeling that it was largely luck that allowed RSL to ever achieve that #1 spot. Salt Lake must, however, start winning on the road if they expect to seriously contend in the playoffs. At the moment Houston is lengthening its stride, and only five points separate RSL from San Jose

What's wrong in the Real World: Salt Lake is hemorrhaging goals, having surrendered eight in the last three matches. And despite having a full complement of strikers and fielding a decidedly offensive lineup, RSL was unable to beat Will Hesmer and the Columbus back line even once on Saturday.

Nat Borchers had an absolutely terrible outing in Columbus. Poor marking and reckless challenges by Nat were major factors in all three Crew goals. The unavailability of Joy and Beltran continue to handicap this team.

Passing and possession were also a major issue in Columbus. It wasn't until late in the 2nd half that RSL finally began to string passes together with confidence. RSL often appeared frantic and nervous, happy to string along a pass or two, but eager to get rid of the ball when calm possession was most needed. Williams helped RSL gain a little more possession - but not enough. Mathis also showed an ability to keep the ball in offensive play, but he was more impressive in his ability to disappear for portions of the mere 18 minutes he was on the field.

A brief look at the week ahead: RSL returns home to Rice-Eccles for the last time to play a Colorado team that trails Salt Lake by only three points, but which finds itself in the midst of a coaching change. This is the only chance for the Royals of the Rockies to contend for the Rocky Mountain Cup at home, and the Rapids lead the series with one win. This is a must-win for Real.

Final thoughts: Olave's return to the back line was not enough to control the bleeding on Saturday, but he still managed to make his presence known to the Columbus attack. His yellow card in the 7th minute was more a reaction by the referee to the Colombian's imposing size than the recklessness of his tackle. At the same time, Olave's brilliance has less to do with his size than his pace and positioning. Throughout the game Olave put himself in the right place at the right time and made the right play. By the end of the game he had asserted himself enough that you could almost see a wall standing 10 feet in front of him, and attackers were literally forced to divert their attacks. Olave's nickname, la pared, is well-deserved.