Real Salt Lake hit the road after conceding their first home loss of the season. Falling further down the standings, RSL will look to start climbing with an away win. Heading to Massachusetts will not be easy, however, as the Claret-and-Cobalt will take on the 2014 MLS Cup Runner-ups the New England Revolution. Returning to their winnings ways after a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, the Revolution will prove to be a daunting task for RSL.
The Claret-and-Cobalt broke its five-match winless streak the last time they played the Revolution. On the coattails of returning U.S. internationals Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando from the World Cup, RSL beat the Revs 2-1. After dominating the first half - controlling the majority of possession and creating a plethora of chances - Real got the break-through goal in the 35th minute from the spot thanks to calm, collective veteran Javier Morales. The lead did not last for long, however, as Darrius Barnes headed a cleanly taken free-kick past Rimando at the far post. RSL would manage to find itself at the penalty spot once more and Joao Plata would tuck away the match winning goal.
About the Clubs
New England Revolution
Like RSL, New England has already had to deal with some injuries to valuable players on their roster. Even with the return of Jermaine Jones, the Revs will be short Daigo Kobayashi, Darrius Barnes, Chris Tierney, and captain Jose Goncalves. Calling on the youth to step in has become a recurring narrative of this side already this season. Still, the youth of this side has really stepped up and bought into Jay Heaps style of play fashioning together a five-match unbeaten streak. However, youthful mistakes have left the Revs vulnerable, something Jeff Cassar's side will hope to exploit.
After losing their first two matches - continuing their losing streak into last year's postseason - the Revs have righted the ship and have since gone 3-0-2. After settling for a 0-0 draw against the Columbus Crew at home, the Revs captured three points on the road in Philly. The Revs will look overcome their seven-match unbeaten streak against the Claret-and-Cobalt, especially after suffering three heart wrenching defeats to RSL the last three times the Utah side visited Foxborough.
Predicted Revolution Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Shuttleworth; Woodberry, Jones, Farrell, Alston; Dorman, Caldwell; Rowe, Nguyen, Agudelo; Davies.
Real Salt Lake
With a game in hand over their opponent, RSL will look to climb the standings after losing four places in the Western Conference since last week. The first defeat of the 2015 campaign may have deflated the high-flying sails of the Claret-and-Cobalt but their record against their opponents will lift their spirits. Still, the depth of the side is holding steady for Cassar and his staff but the offense needs to find its form after being shut out for two consecutive weeks.
The depth of Real will once again be tested with injuries, suspensions, and international call-ups likely to take a toll on Real. Jamison Olave is a scratch for this match after picking up a red card last match against Vancouver and Chris Schuler is out after going under the knife, but RSL remain relatively solid in the defense. In midfield, however, the subsequent absence of Sebastian Saucedo and probable exclusion of Luis Gil after playing 90 minutes in the midweek victory for the U.S. U-23s over Mexico will stretch the midfield thin. Watch to see if Mulholland and possibly Stertzer pair up for the first time in the starting midfield. Demar Phillips could also get his first start after recovering from a lingering injury. As such, the youth of RSL will be the defining factor in this away fixture.
Players to Watch
New England Revolution - Juan Agudelo
The triumphant return of the U.S. International made headlines in the offseason. After securing an insurance goal for the U.S. in its most recent "Dos a Cero" result against Mexico, the top 20 year old attacking prospect will be egger to get on the score sheet in this match. Having already scored once in seven appearances with the club this season, Agudelo will not only look to score himself but also utilize wing tactics along the touchline to play the ball into his teammates. The youth has not been too accurate with his shootings thus far, however, only getting 2 shots on target out of 12 shots in total (16% shooting accuracy). The only real question now is whether the youth can become the scoring threat that his side needs him to be or will he again find himself down the pecking order?
Real Salt Lake - Elias Vasquez and Aaron Maund
After losing both of its top-tier center backs, the Claret-and-Cobalt will have to reach into its squad depth to find replacements. With Elias Vasquez already showing his talent as a replacement defender, Aaron Maund will have to show he has the talent to also fill in when needs be. Maund has yet to find consistent form with RSL and has been shuffled around quite a bit, still the coaching staff admired him enough to bring him back to the club once again. The untested partnership of Vasquez and Maund will have to exceed expectations against an attack-heavy side. RSL needs that vocal leader in center defense and who will fill that role is still undecided. Will it be the youth with a wealth of international experience or will it be the veteran who has not be able to perform consistently?
Key to the Match
New England Revolution
The best way for the Revolution to get a result on Saturday will depend on their attacking corps of players. With RSL missing their main defensive partnership, the Revs will hope to spring long-balls and ping balls in the box, forcing the Claret-and-Cobalt into making errors. The Revs will also expect their high pressure to be effective as RSL has struggled with similar tactics this season. Therefore, anticipate New England's midfield to press high and attempt to shove the ball directly down the center of the pitch. Expect Charlie Davis to be the main attacking focal point with Agudelo and Rowe providing supporting runs. All in all, expect the Revs to bring the match to their opposition and not the other way around.
Real Salt Lake
The Claret-and-Cobalt will have to do a couple of things if they hope to grind out a result in Foxborough. The first is that they must contain Lee Nguyen. The New England number ten is extremely dangerous if given even an extra yard to maneuver. Responsibility for stopping him will likely fall to Kyle Beckerman and whoever replaces Luis Gil in the starting XI - likely John Stertzer as Luke Mulholland will find himself in the Javier Morales role. The second, RSL must be mindful of the new partnership that will appear in central defense. Therefore, the midfield will have to take increased defensive roles to cleanup any mistakes make along the back line. While RSL will attempt to play "beautiful football," expect the squad to sit back and attempt to absorb the pressure and hit on the counter in this match.
Catch the match Saturday March 18 on KMYU at 5:30 p.m. MDT.
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? Will RSL's attack finally begin to click? Can both sides find strong replacements for vacated veteran spots in the starting XI? Share your opinions in the comments section below.