Well RSL is in the middle of their worst stretch of play in years and now they have to deal with cancelled flights on their way to the Home Depot Center to face their 2005 MLS expansion brothers Chivas USA. Oh yeah you can toss in the fact that Chivas poached RSL assistant coach Robin Fraser in the offseason, and then there is Marcos Mondaini. Do you think for a second that anyone associated with RSL have forgotten the brutal, reckless, and intentional tackle that Mondaini used to take out Javier Morales back in early May? Not likely.
The reality is that if you looked at this match a month ago it seemed like a minor road bump for RSL,both sides were coming of stretchs of good results, but a month can change a lot. RSL are 1-4-0 in their last 5 matches, while Chivas are 1-2-2 in the last 5 matches and now both find themselves need a win in the worst way.
more after the jump:
For Chivas USA it is about staying in the hunt for a playoff spot, after their loss at Portland on Wednesday they find themselves a point out of the final spot and they have just 8 matches remaining this season. For Chivas the key to even being able to look at the playoffs comes from their defense which has given up 8 goals in their last 10 matches, they had given up 8 in the 5 matches before that.
I firmly believe that Chivas can give a lot of credit to the play of Nick LaBrocca, after 3 years with Colorado he was sent to Toronto last year and then this year found himself at Chivas USA, and he has responded with 7 goals and 5 assists so far this year. Dan Kennedy has been much better in goal in recent weeks as well, lowering his GAA to 1.04 and 8 shutouts in 24 matches.
Real Salt Lake are trying to prove that the wheels aren't coming off the team that was the talk of the league at the start of the season. 5 wins in their first 6 matches, the first MLS team to get to the final of the revamped CONCACAF Champions League and now the team has simply been reeling from injury issues, poor play and giving up late goals to drop points on the road. This match may represent a great chance to turn their fortunes around, the last 4 times RSL has faced Chivas at the Home Depot Center they are 2-1-1, and this year Chivas has struggled at home with a 4-4-4 record.
Can RSL get back to getting some results on the road, they are just 2-5-3 so far this year with just 7 goals for and 10 goals allowed, last year the team was 4-4-7 on the road and went the last several months of the season without a loss away from Rio Tinto. This may represent the best chance they have to change their road fortune, they still have matches at Seattle-9/10, New York-9-21, DC United 9-24, Galaxy-10-1, Vancouver-10-6, Colorado-10-14 to deal with and only Vancouver may present an easier chance for road points.
For RSL the keys to getting a result are simple and the same as they have been all year, RSL must possess the ball, which allows them to dictate the pace of the match. They must complete a high percentage of their passes, no unforced turnovers of the ball in bad places. They need to take shots, quality shots and they must limit the chances Chivas get to make Nick Rimando make saves. This should be helped by the return of Jamison Olave to the roster, and while I expect him to start, you never know.
Perhaps the most important thing will be for RSL to play a full 90+ minutes, in their last 5 matches they have given up 3 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches and 2 in the last 15 minutes of matches and in each of those matches it has resulted in a loss. We used to see RSL score goals in the final 15 minutes, they have 9 on the season but just one in the last 5 matches, and while the RSL defense used to finish strong in their last two matches they have given up late goals which have cost the team points on the season they have now allowed 7 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches.
Well I always remain hopeful, but for me I would like to see just a solid 90 minute effort tonight from RSL on the road, perhaps a 0-0 draw would boost the confidence of the team that they can finish matches strong. Reality is that there has only been a single 0-0 draw in the 21 times these two teams have faced off, Chivas holds the series edge with 9 wins and 29 goals scored, while RSL has won 6 times and scored 21 goals, and 4 times the teams have ended up even at the end of the match. Chivas have scored 10 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches between the two teams, while RSL has just 1 goal in the first 30 minutes against Chivas. Both sides have scored 5 goals in the final 15 of matches.
I think the RSL starting lineup will be: Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Luis Gil, Fabian Espindola, Alavro Saborio.
I wouldn't be totally surprised if we see Andy move to the top of the diamond and Arturo Alvarez slot in on the outside of the middle, but the energy and positives of the 17 yr. Luis Gil simply out weigh the mistakes that sometimes pop up late in matches.
I think this one is likely to end up a 1-1 draw, but don't be surprised if it ends up with one or both team having fewer than 11 players on the pitch at the end. Kevin Stott will be the man in charge tonight, and is likely to have his hands full. There will be a lot of emotion as RSL players remember the dirty play of Marco Mondaini, which hit a head when he broke the ankle of Javier Morales, I had no doubt that this will be a very physical match.
There you go, my match preview.
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