After a long bye week, Real Salt Lake faces their biggest challenge so far this season. They are traveling to face their Western Conference foe, Sporting KC. While the rivalry alone is fun to watch, there are a lot things to watch for in Saturday's game but, here is what we think is the most important.
Missing the core
RSL has a lot to prove this weekend by playing the team that has not lost a game so far this season. While they have had mistakes here and there in the first three games, RSL was able to stay solid as a team for the majority of the games. But against SKC, the team will be tested. With Olave and Beckerman out for red card suspension and Burrito being our for a tackle he made in the game against the Timbers, RSL has big shoes to fill.
These players make the core of the team, the biggest lost felt will be the that of Javier Morales. He is out for this week's game due to broken ribs and it will be hard to fill his shoes. It is a long season and that might be the deciding factor. If we can rest Javi for a few games, then maybe he will be able to get the rest he needs to finish out the season strong.
There have been many on the current squad that can help fill these roles but the team, will have its work cut out for them.
An even game against SKC?
I know what you are thinking, how can RSL keep it competitive? SKC has big core players that may be missing as well. Most notable, Matt Besler and Paula Nagamura. With Besler gone, this can give the front three the ability to create goals in the run of play. He is a world class center back and not having him solidifying the back line Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan will have a chance to run rampage against SKC's defenders. With central midfielder Nagamura out, that will help decongest the middle of the field and it could create some space for Sunny and most likely Luke Mulholland and Jordan Allen. The biggest loss that SKC will feel is the suspended Roger Espinoza. As fans of RSL, we know him all too well. He is their enforcer. He creates havoc in the middle of the field and destroys anything that comes his way. With Nagamura and Espinoza out, this can give the Claret and Cobalt the simple possession to create goal scoring opportunities.
Real Salt Lake has the very big possibility to get big points on the road. They will have to keep all 11 men on the field and play their hearts out until the final whistle. While it won't be easy, it can definitely be done.