Real Salt Lake faces a reformed Colorado Rapids side on Saturday, and it shouldn't be so much as to make them feel nervous — but perhaps a little more wary of their neighbors than before.
You see, Colorado Rapids are a side that, for so long, didn't garner much respect from over here. And maybe they still don't or shouldn't, but a win last week over Toronto FC (who most seem particularly scared of right now, although an international break that sapped them of some key players should be a consideration) at least gives us pause for thought.
And bringing even more pause for thought: the arrival of one Tim Howard, and the acquisition of Shkëlzen Gashi, a talented forward who last played for Basel in the Swiss Super League. He scored plenty of goals during his time there. And, of course, we'd be remiss if we failed to mention Jermaine Jones, although doubts remain about his longevity in the game, and he's also busy being suspended for pushing a referee near the end of last season for New England Revolution.
I suppose we should mention their designated player Kevin Doyle, too, but I'd rather we didn't — besides, he scored only five goals in his first year with the club, and although he joined in late May, it doesn't exactly strike fear in our hearts.
Now, we have shown a certain aptitude for conceding goals when we really, truly don't need to, as evidenced by our two (two!) 2-2 draws. That shouldn't make us fearful at this point, especially because these are fixable problems and we've shown positive steps toward finding solutions, but also because we'll be pretty close to full strength against the Rapids.
At least three players are set for returns from suspension: Jamison Olave, Kyle Beckerman, and Burrito Martinez. Each brings a certain unmistakable influence to the game.
Beckerman brings a steady midfield quality and a real bite to our transition game — his ability to win the ball and shadow attacking players is unrivaled, and that plays extremely well into our intended style of play that's built so heavily on transition.
Martinez, though he may have not seemed quite as swashbuckling in two of our games this year, brings a possession-focused game and an excellent ability to interchange with someone like Tony Beltran or Javier Morales in equal measure makes him more influential than you'd expect. Additionally, in those games where his dribbling wasn't quite as breathtaking, he was still getting concerted touches on the ball, and that should speak volumes.
Olave is certainly a divisive figure for Real Salt Lake at this point, and his red card certainly didn't do him any favors. But while he's been blamed repeatedly for goal concessions — notably in the 2-2 draw against Orlando City, which I hold were not exclusively his doing and were more about collapsing as a team — his only true fault, in my eyes, was in his red card against Portland Timbers, and in his unfortunate reaction to Adi's constant pestering.
Javier Morales might be set for a return, too, as he's been involved in training this week and was projected to start in this game. Of course, playing through a broken rib sounds a dizzying endeavor on its own, so predictions might just have to go out the window on this one.
Finally, we don't yet know the status of Nick Rimando, whose influence is undeniable. Will his ankle issues keep him out again?
Did Glad earn a start?
Justen Glad was good against Sporting Kansas City, and although he wasn't without error, he's almost certainly injected himself in discussions for a start against Colorado Rapids. His goal doesn't even have to play into that, really, as good as that was. The question should be about his defensive contributions, and whether or not he deserves to start over Jamison Olave or Aaron Maund.
The easiest way to answer this one, I suspect, is when we talk about defensive balance. Does Justen Glad bring a quality that neither of those two brings? Is his organizational ability at a point where it merits a start? Or should it be about developing that ability and recognizing that he's a good center back now? I don't know if there are easy answers to this question, but Glad certainly did himself some favors with a strong performance.
If we're to look at our returns and whatnot, we can start to see a lineup forming. We don't know about Nick Rimando, obviously, so we'll put Attinella in his stead. We've also left Chris Wingert on the bench, just in case his injury on Saturday (unless it was a concussion) doesn't keep him out entirely.
Jeff Attinella; Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Aaron Maund, Demar Phillips; Kyle Beckerman, Sunny; Joao Plata, Javier Morales, Burrito Martinez; Yura Movsisyan
Bench: Lalo Fernandez, Justen Glad, Chris Wingert, Luke Mulholland, Jordan Allen, Olmes Garcia, Devon Sandoval