After a successful preseason, Real Salt Lake is the top seed in the Desert Diamond Cup final. The Claret-and-Cobalt have now reached the end of the preseason with a perfect record boosting three wins in three competitive matches. Beating the New England Revolution, FC Tucson, and most recently Sporting Kansas City, RSL appear to have found their regular season form as the club prepares for their final preseason match.
On Saturday, Real Salt Lake will compete for the Desert Diamond Cup against Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, Colorado Rapids. The Rapids earned their second seed standing after decent performances against Sporting Kansas City and New England. In both of these matches, the young roster of Colorado was able to draw level against the more experienced sides. With a 2-2 and a 1-1 draw, respectfully, Colorado entered their final match towards the bottom of the tournament table. Colorado then reversed their fortune with a 1-0 win over FC Tucson. Like RSL, Colorado will strive to keep their unbeaten streak alive going into the regular season.
The Rapids were at the receiving end of a 5-1 whooping the last time these two clubs met. Despite going down early in the match, the Claret-and-Cobalt stormed back to score five unanswered goals against the Rapids. This match was carried on the tail-coats of the RSL defense that not only stonewalled their opponent's strikers but managed to score some fabulous goals.
As the final match of the preseason, RSL looked poised to return to Salt Lake City with some early silverware during a year that will see the Claret-and-Cobalt compete for much more. The Desert Diamond Cup could prove to be the catalyst as the club looks to win all MLS silverware during 2015, in addition to seeking to be the first American club to win the CONCACAF Champions league. But first the Claret-and-Cobalt will have to overcome a young, hungry Colorado side in a match that is expected to be filled with tension.
With the preseason coming to an end, this match will be about the veterans finding their regular season form. The coaching staff has more than likely already set the senior team roster in stone, so expect the veterans to finish out the preseason strong. Stand out performance during the preseason, however, could allow several fringe players to accumulate some minutes during the match. As such, expect the veterans to dominate the starting XI roster with some younger standout players coming on in the second half as substitutes.
Players to Watch
Real Salt Lake sweep the Rocky Mountain series during the 2014 campaign. This was in no small part thanks to the work of Javier Morales. The maestro was dominate against the Rapids last year scoring a goal in every single competitive match. Coming off a record last season and a quality preseason, Morales is looking impressive.
With Luis Gil and Kyle Beckerman as his midfield compatriots, Morales will cut through the Rapids midfield like a knife through warm butter. This match will be as much as a catalyst for the rest of the team as it is for Morales. Watch Morales find his form and drive the run of play during this match.
Anticipated starting XI players Demar Phillips is another player to keep an eye on. While he has been deadly in the offensive half this preseason, let's see how the speed of the Colorado strikers changes his game. After an injury to his hamstring, could we see Phillips dress this match? If Phillips dresses, I expect to see him in the defensive third more than most matches as he works closely with the rest of the RSL backline to thwart the efforts of Deshorn Brown. If the injury prevents his involvement, expect Abdoulie Mansally to cover and provide the left-sided, offensive spark.
Once more I will say it: Watch Jordan Allen get another chance to impress during this match. Having been a catalyst for some great RSL attacks, the young player will look to gain even more recognition as the future of this league. Expect to see Allen make an appearance — even if it is just a cameo to a fantastic preseason for the 19 year-old.
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.