When Real Salt Lake take the field at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday against Saprissa in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, they’ll have a weapon in their arsenal that not every team has the luxury of having: two quarterbacks on the field.
That’s according to the comments of RSL’s Andy Williams on Extra Time Radio last week.
“Usually teams only have one playmaker from what I can remember in this league,” Williams said. “I consider both [myself and Javier Morales] … two quarterbacks on the field. Usually that doesn’t work, but I think for the last couple of years it’s been successful for us.”
Catching up with Williams in practice, he further emphasized his point.
“It’s usually difficult for some teams [to have two creative players on the field],” he explained. “Usually one team has one playmaker or one guy that runs the attack or looks to push the ball through, and Javi’s our main guy.”
[inline_node:329672]The combination of Morales and Williams was highly effective in the second quarterfinal leg against Columbus. Between the two of them, they finished with two assists and three goals en route to the 4-1 victory.
According to Williams, playing alongside Morales helps to open up the game, “Now and again he drifts all over the field, so they have to keep an eye on him, and when they do that’s when I kind of sneak in and take a quick peek in the middle. It’s helped me and makes my game easier to give him the ball and if players make runs they’ll get passes, and I try to do the same thing.”
Morales and Williams are special players, no doubt about it. When they are at the top of their game, they can produce results for the highlight reel. However, in the past, the conventional wisdom was that such players were a defensive liability. Coach Jason Kreis has challenged that notion with his club.
"The philosophy for a long time was that you could only afford one [creative player] because the fear was that those guys don’t defend,” he said.
While Morales and Williams will likely never be MLS Best XI players solely for their defensive efforts, both players have embraced the RSL philosophy and are active on both sides of the ball.
However, Kreis feels that Williams only has this assessment of the team partially correct – he has a team full of technically talented players, and on any given night, any of them can be a difference-maker.
“I think having a higher number of guys that are technically gifted, and when I say technically gifted – I’m not talking about guys that have good technique – I’m talking about guys that are a bit special on their nights,” Kreis explained. "The higher the number of guys that you can get on the field at once that can do that, obviously that’s going to help you in your attacking play.”
Kreis will undoubtedly look for Williams, Morales, and the rest of the team to be “a bit special” for Tuesday's big game.