In a big departure from RSL’s usual shape and football philosophy, the Claret and Cobalt started a 4-1-4-1 formation against the Union at PPL Park tonight.
Real came out firing on all cylinders and created two shots on goal in the first couple of minutes of the match. The first coming from forward Alvaro Saborio. The shot was on frame but was taken from too deep with too little pace. An easy stop for the Union keeper Zac MacMath. Outside back Chris Wingert took the second shot from the top of the 18 but put the shot over the top of the cross bar.
The new formation appeared to be working for Real in the early moments of the match, who dominated for the first quarter hour. The tide however quickly turned and the wheels appeared to come off the new shape.
The RSL midfield quickly became discombobulated, often clumping up and not creating space or running off the ball. Passing was somewhat abysmal for the later first half. We resorted to clogging long balls over the top to try and hit Sabo up front.
Towards the end of the fist half our midfield did start to gel again, linking together sequences of passes and combinations and pressing forward again.
RSL suffered some defensive errors in the first half as well often looking awkward and flat-footed. One such error led to a wide-open clear chance for Philly’s Danny Cruz. RSL was very fortunate that Cruz got far too much of the underside of the ball and put it over the crossbar from inside the 18.
The half would be whistled without a goal for either side.
Starting the second half it quickly became apparent that the boys in the royal colors were gassed. RSL struggled the entire second half to really put together any sustained possession, attack or chances.
In the 59th minute RSL outside back Chris Wingert effected a hard tackle on the Union’s Michael Farfan. While Wingert got to the ball first and won it, Farfan took exception with the physicality and kicked Chris in the head with the bottom of his cleats on his way back up. A near all out brawl ensued with players from both teams pushing and tugging. Both sides were fortunate to walk away with but 2 yellow cards on Wingert and Farfan.
On a Philly corner kick in the second half RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy would rush to an oncoming ball at the near post. Ned ended up colliding with the post and went down inside the net. The commentators began to proclaim a handball from Grabavoy and rode that horse the rest of the match. Close evaluation of the highlights would appear that the ball did not strike Ned’s hand as he raised it to try to avoid hitting the post, instead the ball bouncing off the post just below his hand. Grabavoy ended up coming away from the collision without much damage but would take a Farfan elbow to the nose several minutes later and be subbed out for Yordany Alvarez.
In the later second half it became apparent that Real would likely play for the 0 – 0 draw completely out of energy. In the end they were successful at that goal and walked out of PPL Park with a shutout and 1 point to add to their previous 42.
I vote Kwame Watson-Siriboe as Man of the Match. While he did not have a perfect match, often shaky in the first half, he had several key plays in the second half to help RSL keep their shutout. Most notably blocking a shot bound for the back of the net in the waning minutes of the match. Overall it was a solid performance from a young center back finding his feet with RSL.
Overall the match saw very little pretty football. Both teams struggled often to create any cohesion. While it was a bit of an ugly match, a draw and a shutout on the road for Real is a really good step in the right direction, facing their road laden final stretch of the season.
Real Salt Lake next faces DC United at home on September 1 at 7:00 PM. Be sure to get your tickets now for next weeks match.
I suspect we will see Coach Jason Kreis give the boys a few days off to find their feet again and come into the DC match rested and ready to claim 3 points in the race for the Supporters Shield.
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