SANDY — There is a saying in Mexico when it comes to soccer. You are the sons of the results.
Wednesday, Real Salt Lake played 70 minutes like the son a parent beams about with pride, but for 20 minutes RSL played like the son a parent can't get off the couch. Too bad the latter lost the game for home team.
Real’s tactics tell the tale.
Real came out like a cannonball. It played flawless attacking soccer. From the opening whistle Real dominated play winning every ball in the midfield and forcing Monterrey back on its heels. The Rayados bent, but Real couldn't break through, and the energy required to mount such an attack may have led to its undoing. Play slowed just enough in the last 15 minutes of the first half to let Humberto Suazo through for a nearly identical goal from the one Aldo de Nigris scored in Game 1 on April 20.
For 65 minutes, Real owned the midfield with sharp, short passes on the offensive end and high pressure challenges on the defensive one. When midfield possession was strong, Real owned the field, but when Monterrey dropped a striker and played a 4-5-1 defensive formation, it was too much and RSL was forced outside.
"The movement in the midfield wasn't good enough from the 30th to the 45th minute," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. RSL wasn't great in the opening minutes of the second half either. Real began to see success down the sides and seemed to abandon the midfield altogether the final 20 minutes of the game.
Kreis said that the key to the game was the defensive shape. A compact defensive midfield and tight formation on the back line to keep Monterrey from slipping through the space between the outside backs and the center backs. Monterrey's goal was scored when RSL let up for a split second in the waning minutes of the first half and Sergio Santana cleared enough space in exactly the spot Kreis was worried about — between the backs — to get a hard shot on frame that broke them down even further leaving Suazo to put the ball in the back of the net.
Point of attack
When the point of attack came through the midfield, RSL looked as if it was not a question of if, but when would Monterrey get a goal. Monterrey's Victor Manuel Vucetich perfectly played the role of clever veteran coach. He mounted a lineup and formation that lulled RSL into a false sense of security in the midfield, but then took it away from RSL with numbers and pressure to force them wide, resorting to a game of wide crosses and into the box rather than where they excel with the creativity and skill of Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman. Speaking of Beckerman: He was missed. Ned Grabavoy did the job defensively but Beckerman's passing in the midfield might have been the difference between an 0-1 loss and a 1-1 tie.
In the end, Real had many chances to tie or even win the game but couldn't finish. Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio and even Jamison Olave had opportunities. RSL surely don't lack the skill, but Wednesday it lacked the patience.
Espindola slipped back into old habits of anxious play and trying to do too much with the ball when simplicity and patience would have served him better. Saborio was in better form Wednesday than he's shown recently but his timing was rushed and even Morales didn't show the patience we're used to seeing from the playmaker. Finishing is about timing and Wednesday, RSL's timing was off just enough to deny them what could have been a momentous win.
Chris Higbee is the product director for DeseretNews.com and a soccer fan for life. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @chigbee