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Match Preview: New York City FC vs Real Salt Lake

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake closes out their five-game road trip this week with a Thursday visit to Yankee Stadium where they’ll take on New York City FC for only the second time ever.

Finish with a bang

RSL, playing their fifth of five games on the road, will look to close out this road trip with a much-needed three points. They’re currently 1-3-0 on this road stretch in particular, having only three points with a win against Kansas City, and taking losses in Colorado, Houston, and Columbus.

With a win in New York, they would finish this five-game stretch with six points, putting them at 24 points overall and would be good enough for third place in the western conference.

After the international break, RSL will play six of their next eight regular season games at home, so picking up the full three points at Yankee Stadium could prove to be vital going into the two-week break.

Match history (or lack thereof)

Since these two teams have only met once before, there’s not much head-to-head action to pull from.

Last time they played each other was May 23, 2015 when NYC, including then-coach Jason Kreis, paid a visit to Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL snagged a convincing 2-0 win over the expansion side as they dominated the game. Goals from John Stertzer and Alvaro Saborio drove it home for RSL, as this game saw Joao Plata and Javier Morales return from healing injuries.

Keep in mind that this was an RSL team that didn’t yet Burrito Martinez, Yura Movsisyan, Sunny, or Chris Wingert. Wingert played for NYCFC during that game, but as we all know RSL reacquired him in this last offseason after he was waived.

Form and stats

Both teams currently sit in fourth place in their respective conferences, with Real Salt Lake (6-4-2, 20pts) having two games in hand on New York City FC (4-4-6, 18pts).

After the 7-0 beat-down NYCFC took from cross-town rivals New York Red Bulls, they’re left with a -6 goal differential, while RSL sits on a +1 differential and just one point out of third place. RSL also has three games in hand on FC Dallas and Vancouver, who are second and third place respectively.

NYCFC has gone 2-1-2 in their last five games while Salt Lake is 2-3-0. City has only won one of their last nine regular season games at home (1-2-5 at home this season) and Yankee Stadium has become somewhat of a regular goal-fest since NYC has given up 16 goals in 14 games there this season.

Key players

David Villa is the obvious difference maker for New York City FC. He’s already scored nine goals and has played nearly every minute this season for his club. He’s gone through hot and cold streaks this year, but when he’s on point, the team does well and it makes a big difference in results. Justen Glad and Aaron Maund could have their hands full with the attack, as Villa averages 5.5 shots per game.

RSL will be missing captain Kyle Beckerman who will be out on international duty, but Sunny should slide into his spot in the midfield relatively seamlessly. Joao Plata is someone that the NYCFC defense will have to keep their eye on, as he has five goals and six assists on the season, with two assists and a goal coming in his last two games played. With the ability to send great service into the box to the likes of target forward Movsisyan and also bang goals home himself, his quick and unpredictable attacking style will require some extra attention from the City back line.