When an opponent comes to town, you generally know what to expect. You know who’s going to play, or at least the type of players who will play, and what approach they will use. You can isolate the possibilities to a couple lineups and a couple tactical tweaks.
Don’t even bother with Real Salt Lake this year. They have more lineup flexibility than anyone in MLS heading into 2019. They could throw out vastly different lineups — and playing styles — each week. You don’t just need a scouting report, you need a calculator.
Let’s just focus on the attack. There are five guys in contention to snatch a starting spot on the wing:
- Jefferson Savarino, Venezuelan international and No. 5 on the 2018 22 Under 22 rankings
- Corey Baird, 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year and recent US men’s national team call-up
- Joao Plata, perennial MLS starter with 48 career goals and 48 assists
- Albert Rusnak, the highest-paid player on the team (per the MLSPA)
- Bofo Saucedo, rising star that scored this dope goal last weekend:
Goalfo Saucedo pic.twitter.com/qAgknAge3w— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) February 9, 2019
Three players who could start at striker:
- Sam Johnson, recently signed using a Designated Player spot
- Damir Kreilach, the team’s leading scorer with 12 goals in 2018
- Corey Baird
And two players who could play as the attacking midfielder:
- Albert Rusnak
- Damir Kreilach
Any math majors want to work through those permutations? None of the players appear guaranteed a spot, and nobody excludes anyone else. It’s nearly perfectly democratic.
It’s not just the sheer quantity of lineups, either, but also the different types of playing styles they could form. They have players in each position with similar overall ability, but very different attributes. Therefore, they could use different systems without (theoretically) a dip in quality. For example, this lineup...