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Scouting the Opposition: Real Salt Lake lack goals, concede many

Manchester United commenced pre-season with a 5-2 victory over LA Galaxy, but the attention will now quickly turn to United’s next match on Tuesday morning, against Real Salt Lake, where the Red Devils will be hoping to turn over more MLS opposition. While Real Salt Lake’s previous game was a stunning 6-2 win over LA Galaxy, it could be argued that it was a one-off game, as Galaxy were missing many of the players that put up a fight against United in the second half.

Real Salt Lake sits even lower than LA Galaxy in the MLS table, ninth of eleven in the Western Conference and nineteenth of twenty-two overall. While Galaxy boasted talents such as Giovani dos Santos, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and Romain Alessandrini, there are few Real Salt Lake players you have ever heard of.

Playing in Salt Lake City, Utah, United play the next match at high altitude against a Real Salt Lake side that doesn’t have dos Santos to bury two goals with two chances. They have also lost three of their last five games, including a 6-2 defeat against the much more adept FC Dallas, meaning this could be the match for United’s attack to really get going.

Real Salt Lake, similarly to LA Galaxy, will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, often consisting of unique tactical threats in attacking midfield. Their preferred method of attacking is to find the central attacking midfielder, who spreads the ball out wide before joining a striker inside the box for crosses. Below is their lineup from the 6-2 win over Galaxy, their most recent match, and one they will be hoping to replicate against United.

On the left-wing is typically Joao Plata, who, standing at just 5’4, is one of the shortest players in MLS, known for his passing and finishing ability. From the right will most likely be Brooks Lennon, a striker by trade who happens to be at Real Salt Lake on loan from Liverpool. In the centre, at the heart of the side, is key cog Albert Rusnak, who has four goals and six assists in fifteen MLS appearances this season- the best tally of any Real Salt Lake player by a distance.

While tactically unique in attacking midfield, Real Salt Lake only scored 23 goals in 20 MLS matches this season, which means Rusnak has been involved in 43.5% of their goals this season. They have also conceded 40 goals in that time, the equivalent of two every game against MLS opposition and eight more than LA Galaxy, which means United could be set to score another five or six.

They are both strong offensively and weak defensively when it comes to crosses, and they’re very good at protecting leads, but their possession football isn’t helped by the fact that they give away the ball very often and make many individual errors. They also tend to rotate their side a lot, which will be a strength against United after LA Galaxy was galaxies worse in the first half than the second.

This match will likely be very similar to the LA Galaxy fixture, with the only major difference being the fact that United are likely to play a different formation that will serve as the plan for the season. Expect many goals for United, fewer for Real Salt Lake, and with their style of play, hopefully, a few counter-attacks from the Red Devils to pick up a second victory.

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