Real Salt Lake interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni declared Anderson Julio the key feature to his new-look formation as they travel to face San Jose Earthquakes.
Salt Lake have lost three of their last four Western Conference games and are in danger of letting their seventh-place playoff spot slip.
However, Mastroeni introduced a three-man defense in a new formation in a 3-2 loss against Los Angeles FC and he thinks it could turn his team’s fortunes around – with the help of Anderson Julio.
“We have quite a few games left so as we get closer to the end of the season I think it is important to have more than one suitable formation for your opponent that you’re going to play,” Mastroeni said post-match.
“It (is) important to have a formation that best suits the players that we have. I think it was one of the brightest performances from a mentality perspective.
“Anderson (Julio) brings something in that nine position. He is working really hard to get the timing of his runs right and the hold up play.
“But what he does bring is a lot of intangibles that stretch defenses and allows other players to have space and time with the ball facing the goal.”
Only Houston Dynamo, who are bottom, have drawn more games than San Jose this term and the Earthquakes recorded a third draw in five matches against FC Dallas.
But the hosts’ head coach Matias Almeyda has been satisfied with his team’s recent performances as he looks to go level on points with the visitors on Thursday.
“I think the players are giving their max, which is earning points, even if it’s an early point on the road,” Almeyda said.
“As a coaching staff, we want to compete for titles and the reality is showing us something else. The development aspect is part of our jobs.
“Our work and effort have become this, and that is the reality.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
San Jose Earthquakes – Chris Wondolowski
Chris Wondolowski netted a brace against Salt Lake in the reverse fixture, taking his tally to 13 against Mastroeni’s men – joint-level with Landon Donovan for the top scorer against the club in MLS history.
Real Salt Lake – Damir Kreilach
Damir Kreilach recorded his ninth goal of the season last time out and only once has he returned more goals in a regular MLS season (12). He is also one goal away from becoming Salt Lake’s third player to manage multiple 10-goal regular seasons.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– San Jose has won each of its last three matches against Real Salt Lake, including a 2-1 win on May 7. The run equals the longest winning streak by either team in the history of the series with the ‘Quakes also winning three in a row in the 2012 season.
– San Jose earned its eighth draw in its last 12 games (W3 L1) after a 1-1 match at FC Dallas on Saturday. Prior to the Earthquakes this season, no team had recorded eight draws in a 12-match span since Columbus in May-July 2017.
– Real Salt Lake has lost five straight away matches following a 3-2 loss at LAFC on Sunday. RSL has won only one of its last 17 matches away from Rio Tinto Stadium (D4 L12) dating back to August 2020.
– Chris Wondolowski has scored 13 goals against Real Salt Lake in his career (including MLS is Back), having only scored more against Vancouver (14). His 13 goals are tied with Landon Donovan for the most against RSL in the club’s MLS history.
– Damir Kreilach scored his ninth goal of the season in Real Salt Lake’s loss at LAFC on Sunday, his second-highest scoring regular season in MLS (12 in 2018). Kreilach is one goal away from becoming the third player to have multiple 10-goal regular seasons for Real Salt Lake after Alvaro Saborio (4 times) and Albert Rusnak (twice).