Real Salt Lake face a Vancouver Whitecaps side this evening that will be looking to capitalize on some recent league shakiness from Jason Kreis's side, as well as what is sure to be a fairly inexperienced lineup, owing to more important matters — a US Open Cup final — coming very, very quickly.
Defensively, RSL will see more changes than they might normally be comfortable deploying. Tony Beltran does seem to have traveled, and it wouldn't be overly surprising if he is the only club regular in the back four. Brandon McDonald should get a run-out, particularly as he's ineligible for Tuesday (he's cup-tied, having played in the US Open Cup with DC United this season). His partner is surely up in the air, and Aaron Maund would seem the safe bet for that slot. Maund hasn't overly impressed during his time on the pitch this season, but he's hardly been the worst defender to grace Rio Tinto with his presence.
At left back, one wouldn't be terribly surprised to see Abdoulie Mansally, who has recently impressed for the reserves, and who would provide some attacking impetus from wide positions. Tony Beltran does seem to have the right back position locked down, and one wouldn't be surprised to see him named Captain for the match. Lovel Palmer may have a shout for playing time, as well, and could play on either side as a full back.
The midfield should consist of familiar pieces, none of which are veritable starting eleven candidates in a perfect scenario. But there is plenty of experience in this set: Yordany Alvarez as the defensive midfielder, Khari Stephenson and Cole Grossman as the players on either side of the diamond, and Sebastian Velasquez at the top of the diamond. Playing without Javier Morales is never the best option for Real Salt Lake, but Velasquez has continually impressed in that position — enough so that he may have counted himself out of the running on the side of the diamond. (That, of course, is another discussion for another day.)
At forward, Joao Plata and Olmes Garcia have both certainly traveled, and I suspect Devon Sandoval has as well. Sandoval has hardly been a revelation up front in recent weeks, but against a more open side, he may have more luck. But perhaps a combination of Plata and Garcia could be appropriate — skillful and deceptive, with Plata acting as the deeper-lying of the two.
This is surely a side that can get the job done, as they say. There are no unknown quantities in this eleven. Everyone has played, and that's surely been to our benefit in situations like this. Depth in numbers is one thing, but depth in quality is rarer. While DC United are busy playing a largely U-23 side, we'll be playing a side of players with real MLS experience.
A win would be important, without a doubt. It may even be vital as we look to secure as high a league position as we can going into the playoffs. But Tuesday's US Open Cup final will be more so, and that's certain to affect our judgment.