Matt Montgomery is the Managing Editor over on SB Nation’s Real Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox. You can check out all the great work he and the rest of his team does right here. Today, Matt opens up to us about what has been going on with Real Salt Lake so far this season and what Republic can expect in tonight’s US Open Cup match.
Indomitable City Soccer: Republic fans aren't exactly strangers to the RSL organization thanks to Real Monarchs, but most might be behind in their knowledge of the first team. Can you give us a rundown of how the 2017 season has been so far?
Matt: Ah, Real Monarchs. If you'll indulge me for a second: The first time I saw Sacramento Republic live at the fair grounds (it also happens to be the only time), it was the match where Fito Ovalle committed some horrendous time-wasting and really raised the ire of every Republic fan. That match was one of our only positive results over most of the season, even though our time-wasting led to just a draw. Great memories.
With that out of the way, the 2017 season has been a travesty. Sort of like that dive, I guess. We fired our coach, Jeff Cassar, early in the year. We hired Mike Petke. Both things seem pretty reasonable, and that's probably the high point. The low point? Well, we've lost matches 3-1, 3-0, 4-1, 4-0, 4-2, 5-1, 6-2 — we've been about as useful as a leaky sieve in keeping the ball out of our own net. There's no real sugarcoating it. We're bad.
ICS: What is the overall tactical scheme that Mike Petke has had RSL playing since he took over?
Matt: Oh, I wish I had an answer for this. I really do. But what we've seen is Petke struggle to get some players to even really buy in. He's to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if he actively calls out our own players for failure to commit to the cause. It's a weird time to be an RSL fan.
Roughly, though, we've seen RSL in a variety of formations and tactical approaches, only one of which has seen the club try to play a non-possession-focused game. We've played in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1, and several variations somewhere between the lines. He tends to want defensive commitment from his wingers, and he generally looks to win the ball in advanced positions. We'll see if we get anything approach that — a long break was the only thing giving this club hope right now, so we'll see how that shakes out.
ICS: How close to a full strength lineup are you expecting for this game? Also, what do you feel are RSL's current strengths and weaknesses on the field?
Matt: This is tough because I'm not sure what full-strength means for RSL right now. I know this is sort of a recurring theme for me, but it's all we can do over here to say remotely sane with the way things have progressed (or regressed.) I'm expecting to see some Real Monarchs players involved, a handful of RSL reserves, and a smattering of first-team players. Exactly who that could be is anyone's guess. David Horst and Jordan Allen are only just returning from injury, and this could be a good run-out. Sebastian Saucedo, Danilo Acosta, Justen Glad, and Brooks Lennon are just coming back from international duty, and maybe they get a run-out, too.
It'll be an interesting one, to be sure.
Prediction: RSL scrapes by with a 2-0 victory, with the second goal coming in stoppage time.