Both Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC will return to action Sunday after a weekend off. Having both suffered from lack-luster performances in their previous matches, both clubs will look to get back to winning ways at Rio Tinto. This weekend, however, will present new challenges as it is an international FIFA date and both sides will be missing key contributors for their respected clubs.
The last time RSL and TFC met saw the Utah side win its third consecutive meeting between the two sides. Alvaro Saborio converted a penalty to get on the board early after the striker was pulled down by TFC defender Doneil Henry. The Claret-and-Cobalt would double their lead in the 28th minute when Luis Gil would finish a ball after a fantastic offensive sequence. Saborio would add the insurance goal in the second half to give RSL the 3-0 win over the Reds. With no Saborio and Gil to lean on for this match, however, RSL will hope for other difference makers on the squad to secure the win at Rio Tinto.
Toronto enters this season in yet another rebuilding year. After a less than successful rebuild last year, the Reds went out and spent even more money retooling their squad. Michael Bradley is the only Designated Player to be retained by the Canadian side after parting ways with Jermain Defoe and Gilberto over the offseason. The Reds would then add the services of U.S. International Jozy Altidore and the 27 year old Italian Sebastian Giovinco. Toronto will have to rely on other members of the squad, however, with two of their big name DPs gone on international duty.
Predicted Toronto Starting XI (4-4-2): Bendik; Creavalle, Hagglund, Perquis, Morgan; Warner, Cheyrou, Osorio, Giovinco; Findley, Moore.
Real Salt Lake
After a disappointing offensive performance in their first match of the season and a defensive performance that left much to be desired in the second match, RSL will look to demonstrate a refined 4-3-3 after their early bye-week. Expect both sides to look to exploit the presumed holes in the starting XI left by international call-ups. Toronto will seemingly use the pace and dribbling skills of Giovinco to set up plays in anticipation of beating back-up RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Defensive organization will be particularly important for the Claret-and-Cobalt, so RSL's defensive partnership of Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler will have to be especially solid if RSL hopes to come away with three points.
RSL is likely to continue their 4-3-3 experiment and this match will be particular important to show the league that this squad is still a power to be reckoned with. Expect RSL to field the remaining starting XI players with the reserve squad filling in the gaps left players on international duty. Do not be surprised, though, if new squad members are given the chance to be difference makers - looking at you Jordan Allen and Sebastian Saucedo. RSL will likely make tactical substitutions as needed, but expect players that can control the passage of play to make up the majority of the subs for a Utah side missing its "star" players.
Players to Watch
One of the most influential players on the pitch will be Toronto's Sebastian Giovinco. The raw skill that he possesses is amazing. Not only can he score, but Giovinco can play the number ten role in a similar way to Javier Morales. As Toronto's last remaining DP on the squad this weekend, expect the Reds to rely heavily on his talent on and off the ball.
On the other side of the pitch, Jeff Attinella will make his 2015 debut for the Claret-and-Cobalt. After coming off an excellent 2014 campaign, Attinella will hope to continue his good run of form with RSL. Attinella, who would without doubt be the starting keeper for any other club in the league, is likely to be a dominating force on the pitch despite being the second-tier keeper. Nevertheless, he will also rely on the veteran experience of the men in front of him to make big plays. Attinella has stood on his head for RSL before, let's hope that he does not have to do it in this match.
Other names to keep an eye on are Devon Sandoval for RSL and former RSL man Collen Warner for TFC. Both of these players are considered to be reserve squad members but will likely see action on Sunday. Sandoval will likely take the traditional Saborio number nine role and Warner will line up as the deep lying playmaker role that is usually filled by Michael Bradley. It will be interesting to see how these players will react being thrust in the starting lineup, but expect their previous time in MLS to help them keep a cool demeanor. With other reserve squad members likely to get the start for either side, could one of them be the difference maker in this match?
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.