SANDY, Utah — There’s no doubt Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has happened upon hard times.
In addition to trying to figure out how to replace the team’s most influential player, midfielder Javier Morales, he’s also facing a shortage of strikers due to injury and the upcoming Gold Cup. It’s all culminated in a prolonged cold streak for what has been one of Major League Soccer’s most potent attacks over the last couple of seasons.
So questions abound about how the RSL head coach will navigate his squad through these rough waters, beginning Saturday against Seattle (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“It’s the first time I can remember looking around and trying to figure out who can play a different position than they are used to,” explained Kreis this week, “or whether or not you ought to try to change your tactics because of those people that are missing.”
Kreis said that raising questions about their trademark 4-4-2 diamond formation is only natural in this situation.
“The first part is that any time you go through a difficult patch, you start to question yourselves,” he said. “So it’s natural for us to question if this is the right shape for the group.”
However, considering such a move and actually making the switch are two different things.
“You have to put your mind with the players, and say, ‘Are they comfortable playing a different way? Do we have enough guys that could slot into positions that they would be naturals at?’” questioned Kreis. “On prior occasions when we’ve done it, it has made the group look a little uncomfortable and stagnant.”
However, Kreis admitted, “We’ve looked at this before, and it didn’t quite work out, but these could be desperate times for us.”
A change of formation could be possible, but listening to midfielder Kyle Beckerman, it sounds like it’s unlikely to occur this week.
“We haven’t really talked about it too much,” said Beckerman of a formation change. “It might be in the future, but right now the diamond seems to work for us, so we’ll stick with it.”
For Beckerman the more pressing issue is how his team — a team built on continuity and having familiar faces in familiar spots — deals with a little more uncertainty and change.
“I think we’ve accepted it,” he said of RSL’s new reality. “It’s just part of where we are right now.”
Kreis spoke of how much has changed in this respect in just a few short weeks.
“You get a chance to look at the group when times are tough,” he said. “It’s a completely different look than when things are good. If you came to our training sessions before CONCACAF games and everybody is remarking about, 'You guys are so happy, and everyone is having a good time.' Yeah, we are — because we’re successful.”
He has been pleased with how his team is dealing with the adversity thus far.
“This group is very much sticking together,” insisted Kreis. He went on to explain that he thinks his squad has really shown a fighting spirit. “We’re learning that what we believe to be true is in fact true at the moment.”