Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes
1. Tactical adjustments that worked
The first 45 minutes were a snoozefest. Disjointed play, not much attacking by either team, misplaced pass after misplaced pass. It was almost as though both RSL and San Jose were missing key players due to international duty (Spoiler alert: They were).
But at halftime, the team had a discussion about how San Jose’s man-to-man defense was affecting it. And the scheme did have an observable effect. One of them was the ball having to be played back to Nick Rimando on several occasions in order to relieve pressure and find attackers up the field.
Almost as soon as the second half started, however, RSL looked like a different team. That was the result of a talk interim coach Freddy Juarez gave his players at halftime, as well as them talking among themselves.
“They were doing the same things, but now we found a way to overcome that,” defender Nedum Onuoha said of San Jose’s second-half defense.
Juarez also opted for a double substitution in the 64th minute, inserting fowards Sebastian Saucedo and Jefferson Savarino. Bringing them on at the same time game Salt Lake the attacking punch it needed to eventually break through.
Marshall said the message to Savarino — who was on a 30-minute restriction — and Saucedo as they entered the game was to bring energy to the group.
“I think we needed that,” Marshall said. “We needed that spark. That’s why we made both subs at the same time. We weren’t waiting to make one after the other. I think by putting those guys in and giving them 30 minutes to see what they can do, it makes a big difference.”
2. Brooks Lennon is an elite crosser from the wing
Damir Kreilach had two point-blank header opportunities in the win over San Jose. The first was saved, while the other went in and served as the game-winner.
But what should be noted is that the reason Kreilach got such clear chances at the goal was because the passes that led him there were so on point. Those passes came by way of crosses into the box by Brooks Lennon, who started on the wing.
Playing more forward is Lennon’s natural and preferred position, and he’s been getting more opportunities there this season. Last year, he emerged as the preferred right back — much to the chagrin of fans and even himself at times.
But having Lennon in the attack more isn’t beneficial for RSL because of his ability to score. In fact, he’s only scored three goals in his MLS career, and all of them came in 2017. Where Lennon is valuable is in his ability to cross the ball with consistent accuracy so that his teammates are in position to score with little effort.
Just look at these two sequences, both of which led to Kreilach attempts on goal. In the first, Lennon is running up the right side of the field before he crosses. Pay attention to his touch and where the ball ends up.
In this next clip, Lennon has to deal with a ball that’s just been cleared away, so he doesn’t have as much time on the ball as in the previous sequence. But, just look at how perfectly placed his ball is anyway.
Plays like that sometimes go unnoticed, especially if they don’t result in goals. But Lennon has proven — not just in Wednesday’s game, but all season — that his passing accuracy is high, especially in situations where he’s crossing into the box from the wing. RSL could benefit from using that more often.
3. Kreilach becomes a meme for the second straight season
Remember last year in the playoffs when Kreilach executed that crane kick goal, and everyone started calling him the Karate Kid? Well, now someone might need to come up with a pithy nickname involving a salmon.
After Kreilach’s header in the 75th minute, broadcaster Brian Dunseth’s exuberance led him to say he rose up “like a salmon” to get his head on the ball and guide it into the back of the net. It’s a phrase Dunseth has used plenty of times before, according to social media users, but this one seemed to carry a different life online.
After the game, Kreilach was asked about not only his goal, but Dunseth’s description of it. Onuoha decided to answer for his teammate and poked fun at him. The video is below.
Is Kreilach the Salmon Kid now? Probably not. But his goals definitely seem to have an interesting effect on people that lead clever people on the internet to grace the world with their creativity.