It’s difficult if we don’t have a target to play to, in Sabo, someone that’s going to stay central for the majority of the time. —RSL coach Jason Kreis
After Real Salt Lake’s 2-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday, there was much talk of sloppy defending — to be expected when a team concedes two goals in the first 13 minutes at home. But what those shock goals disguised was the attacking deficiencies that have been plaguing RSL all season and showed up once more on Saturday night.
Alvaro Saborio was forced to pull out late before the game against L.A. with a quad injury that he picked up in training one day prior. He is now expected to be out for several weeks. If the Galaxy loss is anything to go by, Real Salt Lake is in big trouble.
In 90 minutes against L.A., RSL had 20 attempts on goal. Out of those 20, only eight were on target.
Eight. Eight is the same number of shots that L.A. had — total.
Quickly becoming obvious through its in-game decision making, the team missed Saborio. Far too many of the shots were taken outside of the area, and the Salt Lake front-line had trouble creating any chances in the penalty box. What RSL needed was a target man.
Coach Jason Kreis admitted as much in his post game press conference.
“It’s difficult if we don’t have a target to play to, in Sabo, someone that’s going to stay central for the majority of the time,” said the RSL head coach.
But scoring goals is not just a problem now that Saborio is injured. Real Salt Lake has been exhibiting attacking deficiencies all season. After nine games this season, RSL scored just seven goals, winning a mere three games. Saborio only has three of those goals.
Even more interesting, for those three goals, Saborio took 23 total shots which is the most on the team by a considerable amount. Surely this could mean that a team free from Sabo would thrive more than one with him? It was not the case Saturday.
The new front pair of Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata only managed four shots combined. Both players are young and new to the Real Salt Lake roster, so they are still finding their feet in Utah. But, they will have to step up if they are going to pull RSL out of this season-long goal drought.
The 6-foot-2 Garcia has a tremendous amount of coordination and skill for a tall man, and would be the natural successor to Saborio as a target man. However, if Saturday’s tactics are anything to go by, it would seem that Kreis is moving in a different direction during Sabo’s absence. The 4-4-2 diamond (or 4-1-2-1-2) formation was the same formation that Kreis typically employs, but far fewer players got into dangerous positions.
What is clear however, is that Garcia will have to break his nasty habit of hitting the crossbar if he is to take over for Saborio as the team's top goalscorer.
“You get the feeling it’ll come for him,” said Kreis. Anyone who has watched the forward play this season would agree.
Devon Sandoval also showed some signs of life during his 28 minutes of play Saturday, but the RSL front attacking lineup is one that still needs some time to grow into its boots. Until then, veterans such as Robbie Findley and Javier Morales will need to rediscover their goalscoring touch, or RSL’s season will be over before it has truly begun.