SANDY — Cole Grossman answered a lot of questions last week for Real Salt Lake.
Was he a Kyle Beckerman clone? No. But he played similarly enough that RSL didn’t skip a beat in the midfield without its captain and took care of business against Colorado.
Grossman’s opportunity ahead of last weekend’s match was a hot topic across MLS. While nobody was really worried about Jeff Attinella and Devon Sandoval filling in for departed World Cup stars Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio — something they’ve done successfully in the past — Grossman’s status was a mystery to say the least.
Between injuries this year and last, and backing up arguably the best holding mid in MLS, opportunities for Grossman to play first-team minutes have been scarce the past two seasons.
His moment finally came last Saturday, and he more than held his own.
“Cole’s been here for a while. He’s really starting to learn the position. In years past he’s kind of been the 4-5-1 guy to bring in next to Kyle when you’re locking down the victory,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. “I think he’s watched Kyle. He’s been doing a lot of video with us and I think he’s really now growing into that position and starting to know all the responsibilities that come with it because the way we play, a lot of our play it comes through that position.”
Against the Rapids, Cassar said Grossman played a very disciplined match.
From his deep midfield position, Grossman was instructed to be dangerous going forward maybe three to four times — but that was it.
“If you’re going forward eight, nine, 10 times, and you’re only dangerous a couple of them that means we’re going to get caught (on the counterattack),” said Cassar.
The hope is to show up into the attack unmarked, something Cassar will continue to stress to Grossman until Beckerman returns from the World Cup in late June. If Grossman is showing up in the attack and the opposing team is aware of his position, RSL is one cheap giveaway from conceding a counterattacking chance.
RSL veteran midfielder Ned Grabavoy, who’s also capable of sliding into Beckerman’s holding midfield spot if necessary, was particularly pleased with how simply Grossman played to keep the ball moving.
“I thought he did great in the first game,” said Grabavoy. “I think we’re going to have to lean on him the next five or six games at that position, and he’s known that as well. We see Cole train everyday. We know he’s a great player. I think he did everything that’s asked of him.”
Grabavoy said Grossman was pretty clean with his tackles too, which was always stressful the past two seasons whenever Yordany Alvarez filled in for Beckerman. Alvarez, who’s now with Orlando, was always a red card waiting to happen, but Grossman didn’t display any of the same reckless abandon.
“He won a lot of tackles, which maybe we don’t see as much in training because maybe we’re not leaving our feet, but I thought he was timely with his tackles and then very clean and played very simple,” said Grabavoy. “When Kyle’s not here, that’s what we need.”
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