Well the last match before the FIFA break for both sides, and the two are currently heading in very different directions, while RSL has a 5 match unbeaten streak and is within inches of the top of the Western Conference, FC Dallas hasn't won a match in their last 8 and could fall into last place in the conference depending on results this weekend. These teams already faced each other once this year a match back in April that ended in a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas, where RSL claimed just their second ever point on the road against Dallas. FC Dallas is one of the few teams who have done rather well when playing in Utah, they have a 3-7-1 mark with 12 goals scored and 21 goals allowed when they come to Salt Lake to play.
For Real Salt Lake, this is a chance to step back up to the top of both the Western Conference and overall MLS table, but to do so they will need to overcome the fact that they will be missing several key players. Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are with the USMNT, and it is likely that we won't see Chris Wingert or Javier Morales either, but for RSL playing without their top lineup is nothing new this year. Twenty two players have already seen first team action for RSL this year and before this match is out, we could see another one or two added to that list. FC Dallas actually has had even more players get first team minutes this year with all their injuries, suspensions, and other issues, in fact they have already had 28 players get first team minutes this year, in fact only 6 have gotten more than 900 minutes for Dallas. 7 players for RSL have already gone past the 900 minute mark.
Saturday night is looking like it will be a chilly, wet and windy night at Rio Tinto Stadium which could impact both the crowd as well as the actual match as the stadium already tends to funnel the wind towards the pitch. The conditions could be a real equalizer in this one as both teams will likely struggle to deal with them.
after the jump, my Key Match Up, Wildcards and more
Key Match Up:
Luis Gil vs Daniel Hernandez - In a battle of ages and experience you get 18 year old Luis Gil with 23 starts and under 2,000 minutes of playing time going up against 35 year old Daniel Hernandez who has over 150 starts and 14,000 minutes of MLS action and those numbers are despite the fact that he spent a couple years playing in Mexico as well. What will make this match up even more interesting for me is the clear frustration that has impacted Daniel and the other FCD players this year. Hernandez already has 3 yellows and 2 red cards this year and could Luis frustrate him enough into making a mistake and picking up an early card on Saturday.
Luis has grown both physically and as a player at a constant rate since joining RSL a couple years ago, and he has become one of the players who have stepped up every time he has been asked to help the team. Sometimes that has had him playing at the point of the diamond like he will on Saturday, other times he has been asked to move to the side of the diamond, but no matter where he is you can expect him to battle hard and to find a way to create chances for himself and others, he already has picked up a pair of assists to go with his goal this year. I expect that he will be looking for chances to make quick passes and take advantage of any gaps in the Dallas midfield or back line.
I think this clash of the ages will be one of the more interesting battles on the pitch as the reality is that Daniel Hernandez will need to be very big in controlling the match or young Mr. Gil could make the woes of FC Dallas continue into the FIFA break.
Bryan Leyva - Just 20 years old but he has been with FC Dallas since 2009 when he signed as the first Homegrown Player in FC Dallas history, he made one appearance in 2010, but it has been this year that the explosive midfielder has come into his own for FCD. In part due to injuries and other issues he has found himself with 4 starts and over 280 minutes of playing time and he has looked very dangerous as he works up the sides to provide FC Dallas with width in their attacking efforts. He is a player you will want to keep your eyes on as he often ends up in dangerous positions.
Ned Grabavoy - This was to be the year that Ned Grabavoy took control of his own destiny with Real Salt Lake, since joining the team in 2009 he had served as a role player who got a lot of minutes but never really claimed a permanent spot in the first eleven. Ned has most often been called on when RSL needed him to do a bit more work on the defensive side of the ball, but if you have watched Ned you know he is a very technical player who has the potential to be a very dangerous player for opposing defenses. I have to believe with Javier Morales out that we should expect Ned to become even more aggressive on offense, I keep waiting for him to become a bit more selfish on offense. Don't be surprised if he fires some big time shots on Saturday to test the FC Dallas defense.
Abbey Okulaja - Ahh, the Abbey show is in town, always one of the more animated and entertaining officials in MLS, but this year the antics of others have actually made him look stable in the way he calls matches. This will be his 114th MLS match, he calls an average of 26.8 fouls per match and issues an average of 3.2 yellow cards. 26 times he has pointed to the PK spot and 19 times he has issued a red card. Both RSL and FCD have had to deal with some very questionable officiating this year, and it has cost them points, you have to believe with Abbey being a more known quantity that the players will be mindful to avoid any conflicts with him. As always I hope that we get a match that is called evenly and fairly for both teams, something that should be the standard for MLS.
My RSL Starting XI:
One has to believe that this should be a match where RSL is able to get 3 points but when you factor in the facts that FC Dallas has shown they are a dangerous team with some guys who know how to score against RSL, none more than Scott Sealy who has 4 goals against RSL in the past. In goal will be Kevin Hartman who has a lifetime 0.88 GAA against RSL. Still RSL knows how to win when they don't have all their top players, and guys like Kyle Reynish have stepped up when needed, in fact Kyle Reynish has never lost a MLS match. The fact that FC Dallas has only one clean sheet this year is a very good thing for RSL.
RSL needs to do what they are best at, possess, pass and persevere. With the conditions of wind and wet, RSL will need to keep their passes short and quick, I expect 450-500 passes with a completion rate of 78-80% and if they can do that it will result in them being able to control 56% or more of the possession. The big challenge will be creating scoring chances and good ones, I would love to see RSL force Kevin Hartman who is a year older than he was the last time the teams faced off do a lot of work, say 15 shots with at least 8 on goal should be a nice present for him.
RSL's defense will have to pay close attention early as FC Dallas has 5 of their 13 goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, and they have gotten late goals as well with 3 in the final 15 minutes. A full 90 minute effort will be required if RSL want to head into the break with another win, and that is exactly what I expect. RSL picks up a 3-1 win.
So what do you think will happen in this one?
OFF MY SOAPBOX