Lower-league opponents in the U.S. are nearly always a tricky bag, and Charleston Battery further exemplified this rule. Compact, decisive, and quick, the Battery gave everyone a good scare when they scored the first two goals of the match. The question, then: How did Real Salt Lake adjust for their comeback?
Everyone got better. This is easy to say and hard to do, and it doesn't say much of anything from a tactical perspective. That said, it's difficult to execute any tactical decisions when you're looking at the worst you've been in some time. Everybody stepped up their quality in the second half.
A center back was removed. With the impetus on Real Salt Lake to get back into the affair, and with the Battery quite rightly sitting very deep and hoping to fend off an undoubtedly inevitable onslaught, two defenders almost seemed extraneous. Making his first club appearance — an admittedly poor one at that — Aaron Maund stepped off shortly into the second half and Jason Kreis switched the formation.
It took a quintessential attacking 3-4-3 to really break down the Battery defense. Joao Plata and Robbie Findley occupied the attacking flanks, with Devon Sandoval serving as a target man and grabbing two headed goals along the way. Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy served as the more-attacking midfielders (they really did all attack) and Khari Stephenson and Kyle Beckerman sat deeper and more centrally. Chris Wingert tucked in slightly centrally to position himself better for runs down the middle, and Tony Beltran bombed forward from right back to stretch play.
We stretched play superbly. When we face a hyper-defensive side — and again, there's not an ounce of blame in that for Charleston in their strategy — we have historically struggled to break them down. With Findley and Plata wide to stretch play laterally and Devon Sandoval to stretch along the vertical axis, it became difficult for Charleston to ignore any of those three players up top. Given their proclivity for staying in central positions, this opened room for Plata and Findley to receive clever passes from the midfield and cut inside. Even when they weren't involved in goalscoring movement like that, both players were important to the fightback.