In their second consecutive home match, Real Salt Lake host defending MLS Champions in the Los Angeles Galaxy. Javier Morales will miss this match due to concussion concerns sustained against San Jose, so the Claret-and-Cobalt will need to find its offensive spark somewhere else.
The attack for the Claret-and-Cobalt has struggled in 2015 and last Friday's match optimized that fact after coming to a 1-1 draw only after Victor Bernardez scored an own goal. Jeff Cassar and company are likely racking their brains trying to come up with a solution, but with such a quick turnaround can they right the ship?
The season finale of RSL's 2014 campaign came at the hand of the Galaxy but the last regular season match between these two sides was tightly contested. The Galaxy walked away with a win that day, but from no lack of effort on the side of RSL. The match opened up quickly and never really slowed down. The home side registered 12 shots and the visiting Claret-and-Cobalt managed to tally 13. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was easily the man of the match with four saves from open play and a penalty kill in the last minutes of the match. However it was an early goal by Gyasi Zardes that decided this match in the 20th minute much to the chagrin of RSL.
About the Clubs
Los Angeles Galaxy
Since losing Landon Donovan, LA is not the Galaxy of old. Not only have the Galaxy struggled to find the back of the net, but they are also dealing with a leaky backline. The Galaxy would find themselves level with the Claret-and-Cobalt if a substitute Omar Gonzalez did not manage to sneak a goal past Sporting Kansas City a couple of weeks ago.
Still, Los Angeles has struggled in their early campaign. Missing two key members up top in Robbie Keane and Jose Villarreal, the Galaxy has come to the RioT in similar fashion to a wounded animal. The Galaxy appear in all but official announcement to be awaiting the coveted Stevie G relying on only a makeshift central midfield partnership. As it stands, LA come to face a rival that is similarly struggling in a potential six-point standings shakeup.
Predicted LA Starting XI (4-4-2): Penedo; Rogers, DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Gargan; Husidic, Juninho, Garcia, Ishizaki; Zardes, Gordon.
Real Salt Lake
After yet another disappointing match against the Quakes, RSL hope to right the ship before it takes on too much water. This match is seemingly a must win game for the Claret-and-Cobalt as they have been unable to score in over 600 minutes. The time to throw everything, even the kitchen sink, has come and past so Real will need to find some offensive rhythm going into the summer months. Missing the maestro, however, will create some unneeded difficulty in this respect so expect Cassar to look for a difference maker deeper within the club.
With Gil being the most successful replacement for Morales in the center of the pitch, look to the wings to be areas of experimentation for the coaching staff. This will be of particular interest since the wingers are often creative players in the 4-3-3 formation. As RSL continues to adjust to their new formation and struggles to get their offense clicking, expect Cassar to start experimenting in hopes of winning some important points nearly a fourth of the way through the season.
Players to Watch
Los Angeles Galaxy - Stefan Ishizaki
The creative mind for the Galaxy 2.0, the Swedish midfielder has had the keys to LA's attack since the departure of Donovan in the offseason. Ishizaki has already tallied three assists and leads his side with 22 chances created. To put that into perspective, Morales has created 13 chances this season. Ishizaki has been one of the most consistent presences for the Galaxy helping his side maintain possession and attack. While his defense has left much to be desired in some regards, Ishizaki has proven his worth to the Galaxy and will look to continue his dominant presence in the midfield.
Real Salt Lake - Luis Gil
As the heir apparent to Morales, Gil will need to pick up the attacking slack in this match. The young U.S. international has long been singled out for being the future of RSL and he will need to prove it in this match more than ever. Leading a struggling side, Gil will need to create more chances and move the ball more fluidly whilst still maintaining his 80 percent average pass completion rate. Gil cannot give away the ball cheaply to a side that will most definitely punish RSL if given the opportunity. Gil will need to keep calm composure in this match in order to help his team secure a desperately needed three points at home.
Key to the Match
Los Angeles Galaxy
If the Galaxy hope to come away with a result at Rio Tinto they will have to do a few things. First, LA will have to keep RSL from finding a rhythm. Other clubs have already used this to great success against the Claret-and-Cobalt, namely the New England Revolution. Stopping simple possession and high pressing the RSL players seem to cause problems in Real's ranks. Second, the struggling Galaxy offense will have to exploit the rookie Elias Vasquez on the back line. With Chris Schuler out with an injury, the youngster has proven to be a good replacement but unfamiliarity with Jamison Olave has put RSL in some trouble a few times. Look to Gordon to get all up in Vasquez's business and rough him up. If LA can dominate the Salt Lake defense and break up RSL's offensive rhythm, the Galaxy could come away with the three points.
Real Salt Lake
RSL are on the track to get written into the record books, but not in a way that they would like. After over 600 minutes that an RSL player has been unable to find the back of the net it appears that the offense has crumbled. Needing to find the back of the net is the Claret-and-Cobalt's only objective as they look to break the damn and then flood their opponents with goals upon goals. RSL's defense and midfield still have twice the number of goals this season than the RSL forwards and this is something in drastic need of repair. As the Claret-and-Cobalt's starting forwards continue to come up empty handed, maybe it is time that RSL reach deeper into the well and experiment with some youngsters.
Catch the match Wednesday May 6 at the RioT or on KMYU at 7:30 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 RSL get revenge against the defending champs? Share your opinions in the comments section below.