Real Salt Lake faces the newly crowned USL Pro champions, Sacramento Republic FC, today in an exhibition match.
In the middle of the season.
But while the timing might seem poor, it does provide Real Salt Lake with one final opportunity for reserves action, especially with Chivas USA apparently cancelling the final reserve game of the season. (On that note, the ability of teams to cancel Reserve League action is entirely and utterly problematic.)
Who could play?
No academy players are eligible, because the match is a gated friendly. This means we're going to see a collection of first-team fringe players, most of whom have played significant MLS minutes in their career. You'll note that Sebastian Saucedo isn't available, because his contract takes effect in January 2015.
Lalo Fernandez is likely to play, as Jeff Attinella played and was excellent on Saturday. The defense could consist of Rich Balchan (who isn't on the injury list) at right back, Justen Glad at left back, with Aaron Maund and Carlos Salcedo in the middle.
The midfield is likely to include Cole Grossman, Sebastian Velasquez, and Luis Gil. Perhaps Justen Glad could step up to the defensive midfield spot, with Abdoulie Mansally starting at left back. Up front, Devon Sandoval's a lock, while his partner could be someone like Robbie Findley.
The goal of the lineup is very much to get fringe players minutes heading into a vital part of the season, so that surely plays into decisions.
Why are we playing a friendly right now?
Well, we dropped out of the US Open Cup, and RSL season-ticket holders are promised 20 matches a year. With 17 home MLS matches, no US Open Cup games, and no CONCACAF Champions League to play, three matches had to be added. Only one playoff match could be relatively guaranteed, leaving two matches to be played to satisfy the contractual agreement of season tickets.
Who is Sacramento Republic FC?
Sacramento Republic FC is a USL Pro team, but who knows how long they're going to stay there. They're gunning for MLS, and early indications would seem that they're not far off from it. They've got a great fan base, good support from their city, and high aspirations. It's a good combination.
They'll be on a high from winning their championship, but they'll also certainly feel some impetus to perform against the big MLS team.
Oh, and they have Justin Braun, and he's looked pretty good.