This will be the second time Real Salt Lake competes against the New England Revolution this preseason. This match also signifies the Claret-and-Cobalt's participation in their first and only preseason tournament. With the season opener in Portland only weeks away, RSL will look to find its form.
RSL opened their 2015 preseason with a 2-1 loss to New England on January 31. Despite Sebastian Jaime scoring his first goal for the Claret-and-Cobalt, the club was unable to overcome an early deficit.
RSL fielded a very young team in the first half of the 80-minute scrimmage. Playing with a majority of new signings and trialists, the club held formation well in the new 4-3-3 mold. Great decision-making and several good looks on goal were not enough to stop veteran Charlie Davies slipping the ball into the net in the seventh minute.
In the second half, both clubs retooled and lead to another Revolution goal on another midfield turnover that made the match 2-0. RSL then pressed for the comeback and was rewarded with a goal from Jaime in the 63rd minute.
The Claret-and-Cobalt pushed for the equalizer but was unable to find it. However, RSL showed great skill in playing in the new 4-3-3 formation - that is increasingly looking like the default formation for the 2015 campaign - for the first time in a semi-competitive match.
As RSL looks to find their form before the start of the season, this match could prove to be important. With Luis Gil and Nick Rimando both returning from U.S. National Team January camp, the club roster is finally coming together.
"It's going to be a learning curve, for sure, to get back on the same page" Rimando told media on his return to the club. "The new guys, and even Olave, to see what form he's in and how we are going to gel." While Rimando will obvious take up his veteran position between the posts, it will be interesting to see how Gil will fit into the roster this far into preseason.
This will be the first preseason match since his return from the national team that Gil will be available for. Over the offseason there was rumblings of an increased role for Gil on the squad. This will be the first time to see what that role is. If Gil plays - being a preseason match and such - fans might get a sneak-peek at what this role could be. Whether Gil replaces Javier Morales in the midfield or plays more of a supporting role to the maestro, it will be interesting to see how the midfield shapes up with a full roster.
Speaking of the roster, this match — as well with the other Desert Diamond matches — will be important for fine-tuning the ultimate roster for the 2015 season. With several of the trialists already weeded out and several others receiving numbers, fans and players alike will be interested in seeing how the roster looks after these final preseason matches.
Certain players to keep an eye on are MLS SuperDraft picks Jordan Murrell and Lucas Baldin. Both have reportedly had good showings, especially Baldin, and it will be particularly interesting if they feature in the Desert Diamond. With the starting roles in the club pretty much set in stone, it will be interesting to see if these players are fighting for fringe spots on the senior squad or roles with the Real Monarchs of the newly branded USL.
Other names to keep a lookout for are ex-academy players Fito Ovalle and Ricardo Velasco and trialist Emery Welshman, previously of Toronto FC. Are these players potential senior reserve players or Monarchs' candidates?
Finally, fitness will begin to play a large role in the final preseason matches. With the regular season approaching, players are reaching fitness standards and will likely be used to rate their final performances. Fitness will be especially important in 2015 with such a hectic schedule ahead so getting both young and veteran plays on the same page will be vital in the RSL's success.
Like the coaches, watch players' on and off the ball skills within the 90 minute match structure. In order to evaluate the potential 4-3-3 formation, pay particular attention to movement out-wide. In the 4-3-3 formation wingers and fullbacks will be of particular interest as they are usually in charge of holding up the ball and making cutting runs into the offensive third. That being said, midfielders and defenders will also be judged on their fitness but in different ways.
With one loss to the Revs in the 2015 preseason, RSL will look to right the ship in the Desert Diamond Cup and get a running start in the 2015 MLS Regular Season. "Everyone's realizing now it's time to amp it up," RSL coach Jeff Cassar told the media after practice. "There are certain things you are doing throughout preseason - you're focusing on fitness, you're introducing new things. This is the camp where you really want it all to come together. The guys recognize that and it's time to amp it up."
With a new season, we'd like to know what you think. Do you think that there is anything we missed? Are there aspects of this match that we overlooked? What do you think this match means to Real Salt Lake? Share your opinions in the comments section below.