Six games into the season and with one win under its belt, Real Salt Lake gambled a bit and tweaked its formation for Saturday's FC Dallas match.
Two weeks ago in a loss at D.C. United, Real coach Jason Kreis wasn't pleased with how his team matched up against D.C.'s 3-5-2 formation. Facing a Dallas team that also likes to utilize a 3-5-2, Kreis thought the best way to match up was to also play a 3-5-2.
It didn't quite work out that way. Dallas came out in a 3-4-3 formation, and Kreis thought about making a change early on.
"Against a 3-4-3, it doesn't look so good to play three backs against three forwards," said Kreis.
Instead of making an immediate change, he stuck with his 3-5-2 formation that featured a trio of center backs along the backline of Jamison Olave, Matias Mantilla and Nat Borchers.
The approach also allowed midfielder Kyle Beckerman to play in his more comfortable central role, whereas usual outside backs Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert pushed up into more wide midfield roles.
Even though it wasn't how Kreis envisioned it, the aggressive approach paid off in the first half.
Benefiting from FC Dallas' woeful shooting, RSL jumped out to a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. Up a goal, Kreis decided to revert to RSL's more traditional 4-4-2 formation in the 40th minute by removing Olave and inserting Andy Williams.
RSL balanced the defense after the substitution by dropping Beltran and Wingert into their more customary defensive roles.
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: For the second time in his brief coaching career, Kreis took in a game from the press box. Kreis was suspended for Saturday's match for criticizing the referees in the Deseret News earlier this week and watched the match from the fifth floor of the Rice-Eccles Stadium press box.
He was allowed to communicate with his assistant coaches on the bench throughout the match and therefore was always in control of RSL's tactical decisions.
Last season, Kreis was red-carded in a home game against FC Dallas and subsequently had to watch RSL's next match against the L.A. Galaxy from the Home Depot Center press box.
FINALLY HANGING ON: Twice last year RSL lost points by allowing stoppage time goals to FC Dallas at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In the 2007 season opener, Carlos Ruiz scored in the 93rd minute to level the score at 2-2. Later in June, this time with Kreis as coach instead of John Ellinger, Dominic Oduro scored in stoppage time as Dallas prevailed 1-0.
Asked if he sweated out the last three minutes of stoppage time this year, Kreis didn't hesitate in his answer."Absolutely, and they had two chances right at the end to ruin my week for sure," he said.