Set pieces have never been the forte of the Real Salt Lake defense. They are a problem every season that seems to account for a large portion of the goals allowed by the Claret and Cobalt.
This season is no different. In Saturday’s dramatic 3-3 draw, two of the goals conceded were officially set pieces (and the third came directly after one). Things simply have to get better.
This problem is complicated further by the league’s point of emphasis on grabbing in the box. Officials have been told to stop any grabbing (which was the usual defense on set pieces) and penalize it with a foul on either side. For a foul on the defense, that means a penalty kick. However, the players indicated that this varies depending upon the match and the referee’s personal handling of the situation.
“It depends on how consistent the referee is about it. If he sets the tone early and he gives you a warning early in the game that he’s not going to have any of that stuff, then you have to be aware of it.” defender Nat Borchers said. “If he doesn’t say anything about it, then the players aren’t going to do anything about it.”
How will Real Salt Lake work to improve? Coach Jeff Cassar listed a lot of little things but then arrived at one simple conclusion.
“We just work on it. We look at the individual battles. We look at the way we’re set up defensively,” Cassar said. “I also think it comes down to, ‘If I have this man, I’ve got to mark him.’ I just think we have to do a better job of that.”
For the record, the three goals (and the defensive breakdowns that allowed them) against San Jose were:
- Chris Wingert tried to leave Chris Wondolowski offside, rather than jump ahead and pull the whole line closer to the goal. This was understandable, but he ended up a step behind the Wondo. The 6th minute goal stood because the AR didn’t flag the play correctly. Unfortunately, ARs rarely get this call right, so playing the offside trap probably isn’t the wisest move on this play.
- Alvaro Saborio simply got beat by Victor Bernardez on the 75th minute corner kick goal. This is a frequent problem with Saborio, but he just needs to remain focused.
- The second Bernardez goal started with a corner kick that was twice cleared too weakly to eliminate the danger before the third one got in. At the point where the third ball was put in, the goal is kind of a fluke. However, the third ball never should have gotten a chance. The first clearance is understandable given how the ball came in, but the second simply had to be better.
Based upon that, Cassar’s prescription seems to be just right.