In what has become the start of a tradition among the SBNation soccer bloggers prior to head-to-head matchups, I had the opportunity to exchange three questions with the Real Salt Lake blog: RSL Soapbox. Here are our questions and answers:
Q: Aside from obviously seeing a different starting lineup, what other differences should we expect to see between Wednesday's Open Cup match and Saturday's league match?
A: I think you will see the formation move back to a 4-4-2, Jason tried to play a unique 4-2-3-1 in the Open Cup because of injuries with Pablo Campos up top by himself for the most part but a lot of support from Tony Beltran and Collen Warner behind him. I also think we will likely see Andy Williams back into the lineup, or at least on the bench. Not sure if Chris Wingert will be back or not, he may be resting for the LA match next week. I do think you will see a much more aggressive RSL team, we have scored 12 of our 21 goals in the first half of matches and expect that high tempo push and the speed of the RSL attack to cause problems for Carey Talley and Juan Manuel Pena on the backline.
Q: Real Salt Lake started out slow, but has been tearing up the leauge the past few weeks. What caused this change?
A: We actually started out well a 3-0 win over San Jose on the road, a ugly match in Houston (bad MLS officials- we all have been there), and then a draw at home with Seattle. I think after those 3 it was the injury to Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy that forced some changes, but we also started with 4 of 5 on the road, and 4 of 5 against 2009 Playoff teams. Now after 10 matches (5 on the road, 5 at home, 6 against playoff teams, 4 against non-playoff teams) that we get a much better look at what type of team RSL is. 6-3-1, with plus 10 goal differential, and as many road wins (2) in 5 matches as we had all of 2009. The win over Chivas at the HDC, was a big one for us and it reminded the team that they can play with anyone, anywhere and get a result.
Q: Do you feel like RSL is on track to reach the MLS Cup Final again this year?
A: Sure, in MLS it is about getting to the playoffs as healthy as you can and then taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. We all know that while LA is blistering hot right now, that they will cool off at some point during the year. MLS seems to be a league built around streaks, and the teams that are hot at the end of October can find themselves playing for the Cup.
For my own answers to Denz's questions, keep reading below the break.
Q: Given DC United's scoring issues this season, and with Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emillio seeing limited minutes in league play so far this year, only two other players on the United roster have ever scored against RSL, (Quaranta and Christman both have a single goal each) where is the offense going to come from?
A: If you saw the Open Cup match on Wednesday night then you might know my answer: Andy Najar! The 17-year old DC United Academy product has been making an immediate impact on the field, and will deliver high amounts of energy on the right wing. Also, there is hope (or maybe just unfounded optimism) that our scoring issues are somewhat behind us. Although it doesn't show up in the standings, United did manage to score three goals against AC Milan in addition to their three against Chivas USA last week. Look for Chris Pontius, Santino Quaranta, and Danny Allsopp to put a few good attempts on target.
Q: Only 4 DC United players have been in action for 2/3rd's of the team's minutes so far this season (Talley, Wallace, Castillo, and Morsink). How has the lack of a steady lineup impacted the performance of United so far this season?
A: It's been a big issue for us. We were starting a different pairing of forwards every match, and none of them seemed to work. The bigger issue though is that of the four names you mentioned, only one (Rodney Wallace) makes our best 11 when the entire team is healthy. I've often lamented that Talley and Kurt Morsink would not start for any other club in MLS. They are slowly finding themselves earning less minutes now though since our normal starters are returning from injuries.
Q: Former player Curt Onalfo was chosen as the 6th coach in DC United history. I questioned the decision to hire him as an easy choice but perhaps not the best for the team. Given the hard start to the 2010 season, how are the players and fans reacting to Curt's and the team's performance so far this year?
A: The fans have been predictably down on Curt Onalfo for most of the season. Most of us agreed with you when he was hired. He was a safe choice, but not a sexy one. The early season injuries were a big part of United's struggles, but Onalfo's questionable lineup decisions certainly didn't help our record or help improve Onalfo's popularity among the fanbase. Many United fans have instead decided to blame the front office. DCU pioneered the search for South and Central American talent in the early days of MLS, but they have clearly lost their edge in this department in recent years.