I'll be honest with you: I haven't played a huge amount of organized soccer in my life. So I can't tell you exactly what it's like to be on the field in those critical moments when your speed of thought has to be as quick as your speed of foot.
But watching the replay of Saturday's game, I saw a few significant defensive lapses by the Union. So I think it's fair to point them out, and to discuss their causes and consequences. You'll find video clips of the plays discussed below at the bottom of the post. They are longer clips than the ones that were in the highlights on here yesterday, and they include more replay angles than the video I put on yesterday's post.
I've also put up a poll with this post asking for your thoughts on the Union's defensive struggles this season. I'd like to know whether you think Chris Seitz or the team's backline is more at fault. Cast your vote and share your thoughts in the comments.
- Whose fault was Real Salt Lake's second goal? Yes, Chris Seitz fumbled Alvaro Saborio's free kick. But once again, I find myself asking why Califf had to be so involved in the first place. I noticed that Kyle Nakazawa was standing on the edge of the six-yard box when the kick was taken, and watched as the ball went right by him. Obviously, you have to be thinking pretty fast in a situation like that. But it's worth noting.
There's also the matter of only putting two people in the wall - and the two particular people who were in the wall. It's not a stretch to say that Fred and Roger Torres aren't the most defensive-minded players on the team, and that's just fine. But if you're going to put them in the wall, perhaps putting a third player with them would have helped matters.
It also might have made it less important that Torres quite visibly ducked out of the way of the ball after Javier Morales struck it. Kyle Martino called Torres out on it right away, as many of you who watched the game on TV probably saw.
Look, Seitz does have to get that ball in the end. But you have to wonder about the roles of Fred, Torres and Nakazawa in the play too. Perhaps it would have helped to put Nakazawa in the wall too.
- We all knew Stefani Miglioranzi would be missed. But his absence really bit the Union on Real Salt Lake's first goal. Despite the trouble caused by Cristian Arrieta's backpass, the Union recovered from it thanks to Jordan Harvey's fine tackle on Alvaro Saborio. Michael Orozco and Danny Califf didn't get to the loose ball in time, but they weren't out of position either.
What really caused the goal, in my opinion, was a great off-the-ball run from Kyle Beckerman. You'll see it during one of the replays in the video clip. As soon as the backpass was played, Beckerman ran straight up the middle of the field without anyone noticing. Had Miglioranzi been out there, I would think he would have been watching for just that sort of run - and perhaps doing something about it before Beckerman got to the ball.
- Saborio made a neat off-the-ball run of his own when he scored Real Salt Lake's third goal in the 70th minute. Credit should also go to Pablo Campos, who played a nice cross onto Saborio's head. But I noticed that after Saborio played the ball to Campos, three Union players turned their attention to Campos - and away from Saborio.
Pause the video clip right when Campos gets the ball. You'll see that Michael Orozco (the man-marker), Danny Califf and Cristian Arrieta (who marked Saborio before the pass) are watching Campos. Saborio ran behind them and was in great position to score.
- Danny Mwanga seems to me to still be struggling. I've seen him get pushed off the ball a few times this season, and it happened again Saturday in the 68th minute. I'm sure Mwanga will get better with time and training. But for now, this year's top SuperDraft pick is looking a bit more like a rookie than some may have expected.
- Jack McInerney showed that he can play as a starter. Who knows how the game would have changed had he scored on that early chance when Nick Rimando was out of his net. McInerney played 59 minutes and didn't seem to tire much, though Real Salt Lake's defense didn't give him many chances. I still think that McInerney's best role is as a supersub, especially once Sebastien Le Toux comes back. But I also think we'll be seeing a lot more of the 17-year-old this season.
- If you ever wondered why Chris Seitz didn't start for Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando gave the answer with his fine save of Roger Torres' shot in the 22nd minute. Rimando is only 5-8, but he was able to position and extend himself to deny Torres' wide-open attempt from the side of the box.
- Even though the Union lost, it was a good weekend for MLS as a whole. A total of 26 goals were scored in seven games Saturday. That's a healthy average of 3.7 goals per game, and only one of the games ended 1-0. Coaches may like defense, but just about everyone else prefers goals. Here's to more of the latter as the season continues.
Come back tomorrow for this week's edition of Rank and File.
Real Salt Lake's first goal
Real Salt Lake's second goal
Real Salt Lake's third goal