So before the San Jose match last weekend, I talked about a new Real Salt Lake that I thought would emerge this year and you got a first hand look at it in the 3-0 win over San Jose. However, that performance actually left a lot to be desired from RSL, failure to control the match in the last 30 minutes despite being up a man, failure to adjust before the match for the soft field conditions, and other minor details.
There were some huge highlights as well, the return of Javi "the unstoppable" Morales, who looked like the guy who was a real MVP level player in 2008. Fabian opened up his account with a incredible shot, in fact you could have nominated all 3 RSL goals as goal of the week candidates, but on the new mlssoccer.com who knows where that is anymore? The debut of two new players as both McKenzie and "Sabo" got into the match and both did well, I have a feeling that unlike some past foreign striker experiments that have been less than impressive, that Saborio might just be the next big thing in MLS. A nice interview with him was done recently for mlssoccer.com, click here to read it
So this brings us to Houston, here are the probable lineups(which are never right):
the rest of my match preview after the jump:
For RSL, it is a chance to continue their streak of 1st's that started last weekend, now we can go for our first ever win in Houston (we are 0-5-1 with 16 goals for and 19 against). We can equal our 2009 number of road wins (2) with a victory, and we could be top of the Western Conference standings for the first time ever in week 2 of the MLS season. If we can keep from getting a red card in that match, that too would be a first in a very long time.
Usually when RSL travels down to H-town the weather is a huge factor but this time the forecast is:
- THURSDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY. PATCHY FOG EARLY IN THE MORNING. HIGHS AROUND 80. SOUTHEAST WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH IN THE MORNING INCREASING TO 15 TO 20 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON.
- THURSDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE MID 60S. SOUTHEAST WINDS 10 TO 20 MPH.
- Ching vs. Borchers and Olave - In the San Jose match both Olave and Borchers were banged up, a cut to the head for Nat and a twisted knee for Jamison. Both will need to be at the top of their game if they want to slow down Brian Ching. Ching played the full 90 in their opener against FC Dallas without taking a shot, but we saw how dangerous he can be last month as he scored for the US against El Salvador in Tampa Bay. For Olave he will need to keep his cool, as last year he went back and forth with Ching before being shown a second yellow card and ejected from the match in their last matchup, Ching was also ejected from that match. Olave was also ejected from the first matchup between these two teams.
- Javier Morales vs. Everyone for Houston - With the freedom to roam the field and look for ways to be creative, Javi found himself more comfortable than he had been in a long time and the end result was a 2 goals 1 assist effort that won him MLS player of the week honors. Javi has a history with several Houston players and tensions are always high between him and the boys in Orange. The confidence and form from last week will be needed for RSL to show they can win against a much tougher opponent this week.
- Robbie Findley vs. Boswell & Cochrane - Last week Robbie was kept in check by the San Jose defense but it opened up chances for Javi and Fabi, this week I would expect Houston to pay more attention to them and that will allow Robbie to matchup his speed against the two centerbacks for Houston, and the reality is they can't cover him. If RSL can get the ball to him, he could have a big game.
- Dominic Oduro - For Houston they might want to get the ball to the "birdman" from Ghana, in his career he has played 305 minutes against RSL and in that time he has scored 3 goals from 8 shots. He hasn't found that level of success since joining Houston but against RSL he could be a huge difference maker.
- "Sabo" - Alvaro Saborio saw his first MLS action last weekend, and in limited minutes of play with RSL being more concerned with protecting their 3-0 lead, he looked very dangerous. He has a good touch and plays with confidence and aggression that serve strikers well. If either Robbie or Fabi get gassed or are not effective look for Alvaro to step up and show what he is made of
- Jair Marrufo - Given the history of these two teams last year, it is clear that neither side likes the other, 16 cards and 5 ejections in 3 matches last year is clear evidence that Jair will be on the hotseat to keep the match clean and under control. His history is that he has issued 20 red cards in 88 matches and averages 3.4 yellow cards per match.