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RSL vs. Sporting Kansas City match preview: Depth will be tested with thin lineup

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MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake faces Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, and we'd be lying if we said we weren't a little worried about this match.

There's plenty of reason to think that Real Salt Lake could pull this off, but by the same token, injuries and absences have colluded to make this a very difficult run for the visitors.

Injuries and absences

It's probably the case that nobody really wanted both teams to be missing key players, given that this is one of those tense key matchups in MLS in the last three or four years. But we're not getting a flawless match in that regard; in fact, Real Salt Lake's squad will probably be at its slimmest in some time.

Confirmed Real Salt Lake absences include:

  • Jamison Olave (red card suspension)
  • Kyle Beckerman (red card suspension)
  • Burrito Martinez (disciplinary committee action)
  • Javier Morales (broken rib)
  • Boyd Okwuonu (concussion)
  • Phanuel Kavita (MCL)
  • Omar Holness (seizure)
  • Emery Welshman (hip flexor)
  • Fito Ovalle (personal reasons)

Potential absences include:

  • Olmes Garcia (ankle sprain)

That's a particularly ugly scene in Salt Lake City, and it leaves RSL with — at best — a mix and match lineup. There's an obvious sense that there's some misfortune here, with a concussion, personal reasons, and Holness's seizure from last weekend in the mix. You can't exactly plan for any of those.

Strangely, the injuries and absences come from two sides of the roster — the depth portion and the starting portion. The backup portion (the middle third) is the least affected by this.

Predicted lineup and bench

If RSL coach Jeff Cassar continues with the 4-3-3, we might see something like this:

Nick Rimando

Tony Beltran, Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, Chris Wingert

John Stertzer, Sunny

Joao Plata, Jordan Allen, Luke Mulholland

Yura Movsisyan

Bench: Jeff Attinella, Lalo Fernandez, Danilo Acosta, Demar Phillips, Devon Sandoval

Alternately, if we want to take on a slightly different approach, we could go with a four-midfielder system, allowing RSL to keep some players in reserve.

Nick Rimando

Tony Beltran, Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, Chris Wingert

John Stertzer

Jordan Allen, Sunny, Luke Mulholland

Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata

Bench: Jeff Attinella, Lalo Fernandez, Danilo Acosta, Demar Phillips, Devon Sandoval

Ed. Note: A previous version of this story somehow missed MLS Player of the Month-winner Joao Plata. We apologize for this oversight.

Substitution patterns

Once again, RSL fans won't be in a position to judge substitution patterns. With an estimated three non-goalkeepers on the bench, RSL coach Jeff Cassar could be forced into a weird situation once again. While matchday one and matchday three were weird because of red cards, this one's weird from the outset. It should prove interesting.

When should Cassar use the first and second? Barring injury, expect to see one player come in around the 70th minute or so — we won't want to leave too much time open in case of injury. Whether that's a defender or an attacker will probably depend on the game state, and luckily, one of those players, Danilo Acosta, is capable of serving in multiple positions.

This really is a worst-case scenario right now, but imagine what a red card or an injury could do to change this match.