September 25th, 2012 by Kelly McLain
Real Salt Lake does a great job working as a single unit to press high up the pitch on certain occasions. They don’t do it all the time, but they can sense when a team is a little nervous and not 100% confident in possession, or perhaps going backward, and they pick and choose times to go high pressure when it has the most potential impact.
This instance came in the 33rd minute, and you can see how well RSL have their Portland counterparts covered deep in Timbers’ territory. Nagbe looks to be open (and he does have a fair amount of space to move into), but Nat Borchers is right off screen closing down. It’s not unthinkable at all that a team could play out of this situation, but Portland had maintained possession for well over a minute when they finally succumbed, and of particular note, is the fact that RSL wasn’t high pressuring the entire time. They pressed, Portland dealt with the pressure, and then RSL relaxed, just keeping the ball in front of them. Then, in an instant, they would perceive another opportunity and quickly push up. This sequence ended with Mosquera heaving the ball forward and RSL taking over possession.
This image comes right before Rodney Wallace knocks the ball forward and results in another turnover. Just prior, RSL had backed off below the half line as Portland switched the ball from the far side of the field. Fabian Espindola started the pressure by closing down on Steven Smith (who then played it back to Wallace), but it was the recognition of Espindola’s teammates of what he was doing that resulted in a coordinated effort to close off all the nearby options and get the ball back with a minimum of effort.
And this is just Nagbe all alone getting hounded by 4 RSL defenders. They kicked him—hard.
In case seeing the replay on television wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, here’s the hole in the wall the Timbers left open so that RSL could get their first goal. (yikes)