It's easy to sometimes focus on some of the broader strokes around the team when we're talking to new fans, but it's also important to remember that sometimes the most important thing isn't what's happening outside the team, but what's happening with the team on match day.
So without too much further ado, let's do a quick breakdown of our expected starting lineup on Saturday. Who will probably start, what's their role, and what do they bring to the team?
Nick Rimando starts at goalkeeper, and even if you're the newest fan, you probably know a fair bit about Nick Rimando. His saves look fantastic, and that's because they often are. His notable shortness may lend him a bit more magic about those saves, but he does it week-in, week-out. He's also very good collecting crosses in the air.
Tony Beltran starts at right back. Tactically, he'll be involved in build-up play in the attack, and defending players one-on-one on our right side as we get further back. Look for him to be involved in defending longtime MLS star Landon Donovan in what we hope is his second-to-last game of his career — he's retiring at the end of the season. He's an excellent one-on-one defender, and he's faced up against Donovan with great success in the past.
Nat Borchers starts as one of two center backs. He's good in the air and a strong defender when the defensive line has been pushed higher up. He's not the fastest, but his ability to get back quickly is vital for our success.
Chris Schuler will probably start as the other center back, and the only question about that is whether his face-protecting mask (Happy Halloween, folks) will do the job. Last time he played against LA Galaxy in the playoffs, he scored two of the biggest goals in our still somewhat short history.
Chris Wingert starts at left back, and he brings a more defensive slant to the full back position opposite Tony Beltran. He's been good in recent weeks at both getting down the left side and moving centrally to accommodate more adventuresome attacking from the rest of the team.
Kyle Beckerman, our captain, starts at defensive midfield. Tactically, he's perhaps the most important player we have. When he plays well, the team has a greater chance of playing well. When he plays badly, things fall apart. Thankfully, he rarely plays badly. Look for him not as the strong-tackling player, but as the one shading players into wider positions, helping full backs defend, and distributing from deeper positions.
Luke Mulholland starts on the right side of the midfield. He'll be involved more in midfield build-up play, but keep an eye out for his late runs. Almost all of his goals this season — and he's had a fair few — have come after he makes a forward run from a deeper position. He's very keen on making those, and the amount of awareness it takes to be the first to those is staggering.
Ned Grabavoy starts on the left side of the midfield. He's a possession-oriented player in a very distinct system, and it's easy to see how we struggle without him. When he gets further up the field, in and around the opposition box, look for him to combine in difficult areas, potentially leading to a great final pass and goal.
Javier Morales starts in the attacking midfield position, and he's been consistently one of the best playmakers in MLS since his arrival at Real Salt Lake. Expect that to continue with creative passing and a propensity for getting into good goalscoring positions.
Joao Plata starts as one of the two strikers in the side, where he'll probably alternate between withdrawn and stretched positions. He'll pull and push defenders around, because when defenders ignore him in wide positions, he ends up getting into even stronger goalscoring positions. He's our leading goalscorer for a reason.
Alvaro Saborio starts as the other striker, and his position is as nuanced as any in the team. His primary role includes receiving the ball in transition and holding up play until other attackers can get involved. His secondary role includes getting into good positions in the box and finishing with ease.