SANDY — In the build-up to last weekend’s home match, Real Salt Lake’s entire coaching staff poured over hours and hours of video analyzing trends about the L.A. Galaxy in an effort to give their players the best chance for success.
The approach was no different than in any other week, but considering the magnitude of the opponent, are the match coach Mike Petke raved about the performance of the entire team.
The praise started with the defense.
“We have a young back line and they shut down one of the best forwards you could say the last 10 or 15 minutes in the world. The moments they double teamed on Ibrahimovic, and the ones that they didn’t were the right times not too,” said Petke about his young center back duo of Justen Glad and Nick Besler in slowing L.A. superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Just as important was how Real Salt Lake built out of the Galaxy pressure, and Petke slipped into math teacher mode breaking down the tactics in his postgame press conference.
“It takes division to bypass lines,” said Petke about creating 3-on-2 situations whenever the Galaxy pressured.
Patience was the key on multiple occasions as L.A.’s attacking players tried forcing giveaways with pressure. When an initial ball out to alleviate the pressure wasn’t there, RSL often reset possession with quick ball movement and tried building out again.
The best example of that was in the build-up to RSL’s first goal by Albert Rusnak in the 14th minute. Brooks Lennon’s initial ball forward to Jefferson Savarino was slowed by the Galaxy defense, but after quick touches by Kyle Beckerman and Sunday Stephen, the ball was back at the foot of Lennon and he quickly spotted a wide-open Joao Plata.
The extra sequence of passes near the sideline dragged Galaxy holding midfielder Perry Kitchen toward the sideline as well, which left a ton of space for Plata in the middle of the field.
Another reason Plata was so open was because RSL tried to keep width on both sides of the field regardless of where the ball was.
“We had a ton of overloads, with the ball starting on one side but not everybody going,” said Petke.
RSL knew if it could play out of the L.A. pressure and quickly switch the field it would have equal numbers on the other side of the field.
It’s something Petke has worked on all throughout the season as RSL continues to evolve into a dangerous transition team.
Petke pinpointed numerous reasons for the success after Saturday’s match, things like “Rusnak popping into holes,” or “Kyle (Beckerman) receiving and facing forward” or “(Plata and Savarino) getting themselves in position.”
“All stuff we talked about this week, and hats off to my assistant coaches,” said Petke.
During Real Salt Lake’s three-game winning streak Petke has raved about his team’s attention to deal after each game in executing the game plan but said last weekend’s execution was the best its been all season over 90 minutes.
The result was another win as RSL remained in fourth place in the log-jammed Western Conference playoff picture.