Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Sign of Changes Coming???

Although it isn't unprecedented, RSL made the announcement of the out-of-the-ordinary closed practice session for tomorrow. This is their last practice in Salt Lake before making the flight east for their Saturday matchup against DC United. Their only practice in DC on Friday is also listed as closed.

With this announcement the most logical conclusion is that the team are looking to put in some changes, and want to keep the identity of those changes out of the eyes of the media - and by proxy - their opponent.

So what could those changes be? A couple of weeks ago, we saw the 4-5-1 instituted. This lead to a fairly competitive road match for a change and my initial reaction would be that we would see this formation employed once again. However the 4-5-1 came at a time when the biggest struggle on the road was giving up an early goal and getting totally taken out of RSL's game. I'm not sure this is the most immediate concern at this point.

The new concern is the teams lack of ability to generate offense. RSL's shots are down in the last several games, and more importantly the team has been unable to score. With this in mind, can RSL afford to go to a 4-5-1?

I actually think we may see the familiar 4-4-2 diamond formation, but with more selective runs to get the additional attacker in the mix. We won't see Wingert and Russell pushing forward on every play like we did at times in the last match. I think we will see a focus on a more deliberate buildup through the midfield, and we'll see the forwards holding up the ball more to allow the midfield to enter the attack. And we'll see a greater focus on the midfield returning to shape quickly in transition. Against Kansas City there was very little resistance from the midfield as KC countered on the attack. RSL's aggressive posture was often exposed in that match.

So what personnel changes could be made to support that? First of all, I'm fairly confident that Espindola will be in the mix as he can both "push the attack" to try to put pressure on a lean backline in transition, and he can also hold the ball reasonably well and distribute to oncoming attackers. I assume that he'll replace Movsisyan who has struggled.

What about Findley? Although I'd like to see Escalada paired up with Espindola, I don't think we'll see this on the road. It would be nice to have someone with his touch and finishing ability, but I'm not sure that he shows the effort to track back defensively that Findley has shown. In addition, Findley is our best aerial forward and that's something that you lose with an Escalada/Espindola combo versus a Findley/Movsisyan combo. My only concern is that I'm not really sure how well Espindola/Findley combine. I'm sure this combo was out there several times last season, but I just don't remember it being a successful one.

The other potential change would be in the midfield, but to be honest I don't see this happening in this match. However, if any of the four start out poorly I would expect an early hook.

What are your thoughts?