Real Salt Lake may be coming off a disappointing series against Tigres, but their season has only just begun. It's time for the team to stand up and brush themselves off, and they have no choice but to try first against Orlando City SC.
Orlando joined the league last year, but because they claimed no players from Real Salt Lake (thanks, Jason Kreis, for that one — he headed an arrangement which say NYCFC pick two and Orlando pick none during the 2015 MLS Expansion Draft), it's easy to forget that they're new.
In fact, that seems to be the biggest easiest thing to remember when a team comes into the league; they didnt', so we couldn't. Regardless, there's a bit to remember — a stamp from the goalscoring-grace-turned-clumsy-stepper Kaka, a headed goal from Sebastian Jaime, and a Sebastian Saucedo shot from distance that hit the post stand out.
There's certainly more to this one than meets the eye, but don't expect any of those notable events to really matter this year. You know, unless they do.
Lineups and absences
Whatever the case, RSL will be tasked with finding a lineup that works after a midweek match and with an illness (a bout of flu, apparently) spreading across the team. Javier Morales, Juan Manuel Martinez, Jamison Olave and Demar Phillips have all been suffering, with Phillips also sitting out Wednesday's draw with Tigres.
Jeff Cassar may be tempted to play a bit conservatively in that regard, as the wear-and-tear of travel can sometimes make it more difficult to recover from illness. The repercussions of being out longer could hurt, especially early in the season when fitness levels aren't at their peak.
One player we assumed would be absent? Aaron Maund, who obtained a rather stunning goose-egg on his forehead during a collision with a Tigres player. Somehow, he was cleared immediately as not having sustained a concussion, so he may be eligible to start. Don't be surprised if we see him alongside Justen Glad.
In fact, there are ready-made backups for each of the ill players: Olmes Garcia could start for Martinez, Jordan Allen could start for Morales, and Chris Wingert could start for Phillips. Wingert, having started during the week, isn't unlikely to continue, but there seems to be a lot depending on that assessment.
Tactical outlay and substitutions
Expect RSL coach Jeff Cassar to roll out basically the same tactical outlay as you saw on Wednesday, but don't be surprised if we see a late change that makes things a little more interesting. In fact — and don't quote me on this — but a makeshift diamond isn't the worst idea if we have a lead or if we're getting overrun in the midfield. Just switch John Stertzer in for an attacker, and you might have it set.
But on that note, it's worth mentioning substitutions. Jeff Cassar gets a lot of criticism about his substitution patterns, and sometimes, he deserves it. Wednesday, I don't think he did — we were creating chance after chance with the group out there, and Yura Movsisyan was taken out of the match after his output started to wane. Defensively, we were only caught out when Aaron Maund was forced off by that pretty substantial collision. During that time, it's difficult to rationalize a reactive substitution. Proactive substitutions are great, but it's important that they're made when a player can bring more than another is at that given moment.
This time, expect to see earlier substitutions from Cassar. Some members of the team will almost certainly a bit leggy, so don't be surprised to see a substitution fairly early in the second half. Of course, I could be wrong about that — Cassar has been known to defy expectations on one or two occasions.
Finally, we may get to see Luke Mulholland return to the pitch for a competitive match for the first time in 2016. It will be particularly interesting to see how he differs from Sunny, as well as to note how he's improved from last year.
If this team is to improve from last year, it will be important that they start to put away their chances. With only one competitive goal scored across the two matches — but with a plethora of chances created. Yura Movsisyan will need to become more clinical as his fitness grows, Joao Plata will have to build on a strong start, and Burrito Martinez will need to get into the box a bit more frequently.
Whatever the case, the spacing and timing of defenders is not likely to be a step up from Tigres. If the attacking quartet can manage to continue to impress while playing against the likes of Aurelien Collin, we should be in for a good time. If not — well, we'll have to examine and see where things have broken down.