By the time Real Salt Lake takes the pitch at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night against Chivas USA it will have been over 20 days without a MLS match, that is a mighty long break. Even in that last league match back on the 26th of May, RSL wasn't at full strength their starting lineup was missing Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, and Javier Morales. Missing some of their top players is nothing new for RSL this season, between injuries, national team call ups, bad suspensions it has just been one of those seasons.
Still one has to consider a 9-3-2 record, which is the best record after 14 matches in RSL history a bit of a surprise. The team which has faced all those issues and shown a lot of heart and grit which has lead to some great results but if you look at the score lines after the first two matches you see that RSL has been, for lack of a better term, "Grinding Out Results". In their last 12 matches they have won just once by 2 goals, lost just once by 2 goals, lost 2 by a single goal and 6 matches won by a single goal and 2 draws. RSL's 22 goals scored is second best in the West to San Jose's 27, and our 14 goals allowed is 2nd lowest with only Seattle's 9 being lower. Still while the results have been very good, I think many on the pitch and in the stands would agree that the team is capable of more.
With just 3 matches to go until the midway point of their season, RSL is still dealing with some injury issues as 3 players are listed on the latest report as out, Chris Schuler (7 starts, 713 minutes), Luis Gil (10 starts 775 minutes), and Leone Cruz (yet to see first team action). Listed as questionable are: Javier Morales, Jonny Steele, Jamison Olave, and Fabian Espindola. That is the Tuesday report, which of course could change greatly by the time the Friday injury report is released, we know that Javier and Jonny both saw action on Tuesday morning in reserve league action. So I think that is a good sign.
After the jump, the national team boys return to RSL and more thoughts
Well RSL had players on 3 national teams that were taking part in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying over the last week and each of those teams (USA, Canada, Costa Rica) all finished with 1 wins and 1 draw in their matches. Perhaps no player had a bigger boost from his time with his national team than Alvaro Saborio, who scored 4 goals in the two Costa Rica matches. Still RSL will likely get a nice boost from the return of Sabo, Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, and Nick Rimando all of whom I have to believe will likely either start or at least be in the 18 man roster for the match on Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest unknown could be the biggest factor on Saturday, Javier Morales, who has made only 6 starts and has under 600 minutes for RSL this season, returned to action on Tuesday playing 45 minutes in the reserve match. A healthy and focused Javier Morales is simply a difference maker for RSL and with 3 big matches in 8 days I doubt we will see him go 90 in any of them but don't be surprised if he sees action in at least 2 of them. With Luis Gil being out, that surely opens up a new can of worms as to who will play the top of the diamond? I can see Javier getting the start, with either Ned Grabavoy moving up to fill that spot in the second half, or Sebastian Velasquez getting a shot at the spot. One thing is for sure while Chivas USA have only one win in their last 5 matches you have to also remember they only have one loss in their last 5 matches.
For RSL there will be no rest as for the 3rd or 4th time already this season we will play on Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday, as the team will return home to play host to the LA Galaxy on the 20th and then San Jose on the 23rd. The focus however has to be getting a bit of revenge for the 1-0 defeat Chivas USA handed to RSL back in March, and finally getting the bad taste of that US Open Cup loss out of the mouths of players and fans alike.
OFF MY SOAPBOX