Real Salt Lake vs San Jose Earthquakes - Match Preview

Luis Gil may be young, but he isn't afraid to fight and work hard. I expect he will be a go to guy against San Jose. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

For Real Salt Lake they will face the San Jose Earthquakes three times in regular season MLS action, the final match will be on Saturday as RSL head to Buck Shaw Stadium. In both of the first matches San Jose picked up the wins, in the first match it was a case of criminal proportions that sent RSL down a second man when Steven Lenhart framed Jamison Olave. The end result was a couple stoppage time goals against the 9 man RSL side and a 3-1 win for the Quakes. Then just a few weeks ago, it was a 84th minute goal off a throw in that saw the Quakes punish RSL mistakes to score two goals in the final 15 minutes of the match and claim a 2-1 win at Rio Tinto Stadium. Those two results leveled the all time series between the two teams at 5 wins each and 5 draws, and even in San Jose the series has each side winning 3 matches and a single draw between the two teams.

So what does that mean? It means that this is likely to be a very exciting match with a good number of goals, matches in San Jose are averaging over 3 combined goals. Then factor in the intensity level of the first two times these teams faced off this season and you can quickly see that this match up of the #1 and #2 teams in both the Western Conference and overall in MLS should be one you don't want to miss.

There will be a few guys missing from each side but San Jose clearly is the worse for wear as they added Steven Lenhart to the out list for concussion like symptons (love him or hate him, you hate to see a player go out that way). Here is the full injury report for the San Jose Earthquakes:

OUT: MF Cesar Diaz Pizarro (L ankle sprain); MF Sam Garza (rib fracture); MF Joey Gjertsen (R knee surgery); FW Steven Lenhart (Concussion symptoms); DF Tim Ward (L non-specific soft tissue injury); PROBABLE: MF Simon Dawkins (L shoulder sprain). San Jose will also be without Ramiro Corrales who is suspended for the match.

For Real Salt Lake Nat Borchers was added to the Doubtful list which could mean some changes from last weekends lineup, here is the full RSL injury report:

OUT: DF Chris Schuler (L foot bone stress response); DOUBTFUL: DF Nat Borchers (L quadriceps strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Ned Grabavoy (L adductor strain); PROBABLE: MF Javier Morales (R knee hyperextension)

My Key Match Up, Wildcards and more after the jump:

Key Match Up:

Jamison Olave and Kwame Watson-Siriboe vs Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon - 20 goals and 4 assists is the total that Wondolowski and Gordon have this year, when you consider that Gordon has just 496 minutes and just 3 starts it is rather amazing. The Duo also has a total of 9 game winning goals this year, so even without Steven Lenhart the offensive firepower of the Quakes is impressive. On the other side is the now resurgent RSL defense who after a rough 10 day period when they gave up 7 goals they are now coming off back to back clean sheets. RSL actually has 5 clean sheets in their last 9 matches, and that has often been with a hodgepodge back line due to injuries, once again it looks like RSL will need to look to a new face to step in and play a huge role. Jamison Olave is back but with Nat Borchers out it is likely that Kwame will be called on for his second start in just weeks with the team. He was impressive against Seattle and will need to be again if RSL is going to try to contain the Quakes offense.

Wildcards:

Luis Gil - It is likely with Ned Grabavoy still nursing an injury that Luis will get the start on the outside of the diamond, and if he can recreate and build on last weekends performance he could be adding to his 2012 stats that currently include 1 goal and 3 assists. I had thought that he started to play a bit tentative in recent weeks but against Portland's very physical midfield he simply stepped up and was great on both sides of the ball, now lets see if he can keep it going.

Khari Stephenson- With Lenhart out, we could see Khari Stephenson get a lot more touches and that could be troublesome for RSL, he has 1 goal and 1 assist against us already this year. I think he presents a unique challenge for RSL with some speed and athleticism that could push our back line. It will be interesting to see if he starts in the midfield or if he is held in reserve and used as that late energy boost type of guy.

Allen Chapman - Well the long list of questionable calls in MLS continues and for RSL some of those calls have been game changers in recent weeks and in both matches against San Jose we have seen some calls that haven't gone RSL's way that have played a role in the final outcomes of both matches. So this week we have a newer official as Chapman has only been in charge of 5 previous matches, but his numbers indicate a fairly tolerant official. He calls an average of 22.2 fouls per match, issues just 2.4 yellows per match, and he has only pointed to the PK spot once, and he has never reached into the back pocket for a red card.

My Prediction:

This is a tough match to call, as should any match between two really good teams, but I am going to go with RSL doing what they did to start the 2010 and 2011 seasons, which is to pick up a road win over San Jose. RSL seems to be getting over their dip of a few weeks ago, while San Jose seems to be entering a bit of a dip in their season. Let's be honest with each other, MLS teams will have ups and downs and for San Jose this is the first real down of their season with a loss at Portland and then a draw at FC Dallas (the bottom two teams in the Western Conference). We know in the last match between the two sides that RSL dominated most of the match but was punished for a couple of mistakes and San Jose picked up the win.

You can be sure RSL head coach Jason Kreis has had the players look at the mistakes of the previous matches against San Jose as well as the very solid play in the last two matches. For RSL it simply comes down to being able to produce goals from their chances, an early goal would be great as RSL is 9-1-0 when scoring first, and just 2-5-1 when giving up the first goal. San Jose has given up 15 goals in the first half of matches, RSL just 6. RSL has scored just 9 of their 31 goals in the first half of matches, while San Jose has 12 of their 36 goals coming in the first half. RSL will need to have a lead, and hopefully a two goal lead late in the match as San Jose has 22 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches, RSL is good but our 13 goals in that same time period pales in comparison.

I think RSL builds on last weekend and gets an early goal and then forces San Jose to chase them, this could be a high scoring match. I am going with a 3-2 RSL win.

How do you think this one will go down?

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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