What did our beloved Claret and Cobalt do the evening of March, 10th? They did what they trained for. They did what they most wanted. They did what they are capable of. They “came to score” (The Aggrolites).
These do-or-die situations hurt my head a little bit. I mean, not to say this one is literally do-or-die, but in practice? Certainly so. We're facing that tricky Panamanian side Tauro FC, and it's hard to not get caught up in the consternation game.
That's not to say I'm particularly worried about our performance. We've been on a real uptick of work rate and performance, so that's been encouraging, but the pain of losing doesn't fade quickly. You understand why that's problematic.
Let us recap: We lost to Herediano (6 pts), then we beat Tauro (0 pts). And now we're here, sitting on 3 points. Anything less than a win things get confusing — regardless, to catch Herediano, we'll need to beat them at the Rio Tinto. After tonight, maybe it would be good to make a Table of Possibilities. (It's a magical item.)
We head toward tonight with a renewed squad and, hopefully, a renewed focus. Or, you know, a focus that continues from our increasingly effective performances (though perhaps not results.) The biggest boost? A potential return for defensive stalwart Jamison Olave.
We're out a captain and up an Olave: You win some, you lose some. As always, right? Someday, we'll get everyone together — but sometimes it feels like that'll be a five-year reunion for one of MLS's strongest — but least decorated for their efforts — squads. Aside from the Beckerman absence, we may actually be at our most fit, though — supposing, of course, somebody doesn't get sent off. After all, this is the CONCACAF Champions League, and we are Real Salt Lake, and apparently, having a player sent off is what we do. Or what we have done to us. Something like that.
So, a lineup. Rimando, yes. Wingert, Borchers, Olave, Beltran, yes.
A note: Tony Beltran has made some mistakes recently. Admittedly, these are mistakes he shouldn't be making, but he's a young defender and these problems do sometimes crop up. But it is interesting to note that most of these mistakes — the ones that hurt us, at least — have come without Olave to mop up behind him. Could this have been more of an impactful absence than I'd thought, even with Kwame Watson-Siriboe in? Perhaps. Olave, on form, is more than just a good defender — he's a good teammate. I am absolutely not implying that Kwame is not — but Olave is from a different planet, the mopper-upper he is.
Back to things. In the defensive midfield spot: Ned Grabavoy.
Wait, Ned? Yes, yes. I know I'm a fan of his and some select few aren't. That's fine. Whatever. But Ned's a link-up player — why would I want to see him at the back when we have a more defensive minded player in Yordany Alvarez — one who might fit that role better? I'm firmly convinced what we need there is a link-up player — Tauro is a good attacking team, but they tended do so from wider positions, with Kyle given a bit more room to charge forward. Now, I don't particularly see Ned charging forward, but creating triangles on the pitch, connecting the wider (but not wide) midfielders with Javier Morales — this is what we need him for there. Yordany's a good player, and he'll get more chances, I hope, but this is not a night for him. Not initially, at least. But who does that leave in the rest of the midfield? Well…
Will Johnson. Luis Gil. Javier Morales.
Nothing too controversial, I suppose, but Luis Gil has been rated as one of those "outside" players. There will be few better chances for him to show what he's made of than tonight. A bad performance won't spell anything out, but a good performance might. That's what we'd like to see, at least.
Up front? That one's easy. Saborio. Espindola.
Now, let's hope Saborio doesn't see a yellow — we'll also need him for the home match against Herediano, and he's on warning. But, hey, maybe he'll get sent off. Par for the course, right? Right.
Let's go out and win this, shall we?