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RSL vs. Montreal preview: Salt Lake looks to stay unbeaten at home

MLS: D.C. United at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake—about halfway through their big summer home stretch—will play host to the Montreal Impact this weekend in a game that will be seen by many RSL fans as a must-win after giving up a late goal in a disappointing draw against DC United last week.

Salt Lake hopes to keep their unbeaten home record alive this season, as they have five wins and two draws at Rio Tinto on the year in MLS play.

Where they stand

Montreal (6-4-6, 24 points) finds themselves in a favorable position, sitting at third place in the Eastern Conference, just four points behind first-place New York City FC with three games in hand. RSL (8-5-4, 28 points) is also in third place in the Western Conference, sitting just five points behind second-place Colorado Rapids, and two points clear of the fourth-place LA Galaxy through 17 games played.

The Impact have won only two of their last five, while drawing two and losing only one. The most recent win came last week at home against the New England Revolution. Ignacio Piatti got the game winner off a PK in the 54th minute to seal the deal.

Salt Lake has an identical record in their last five MLS games with two wins, two draws, and one loss. RSL thought they had the full three points last week at home against DC United until Jared Jeffrey knocked in a header in the 92nd minute to tie the game up at 1-1 and escape Rio Tinto Stadium with a point.

Series history

Both teams are 2-2-0 in the series, with the home team always emerging victorious. The last meeting came on May 16th last year at Stade Saputo when the Impact had a convincing 4-1 win, thanks to goals from Andres Romero, Laurent Ciman, and Dilly Duka.

Devon Sandoval had RSL’s only goal on the night, as the game gave Montreal their first win of the 2015 season while they sat in last place.

Previous match-ups have seen RSL win both their home games against Montreal by scores of 3-1 in 2014 and 1-0 in 2012 during the Impact’s debut MLS season. Montreal won the other game 3-2 at home in 2013.

Missing players on both sides

Real Salt Lake is still missing the same two players from the past few weeks to injury—Emery Welshman with his hip flexor injury, and Sunny who is still set to be out for a while after having facial surgery.

Montreal will be without a few more players, as they’ll be missing Andres Romero (ACL), Donadel Marco (ankle), and Donny Toia (calf) to injury, and they’ve all been out for quite a while. Perhaps the biggest blow Montreal will have to deal with is the news that star striker Didier Drogba won’t be making the trip to Utah with the team due to a thigh injury.

Although his injury has been reported as not overly serious, this will be the second game in a row he’s missed. He could make his return on July 13th when Montreal travels to Portland, although it’s common knowledge that Drogba regularly opts to not play on turf, so Montreal fans may have to wait until they return home on July 17th to see him back on the pitch.

Key players

With Drogba out, we’ll expect to see speedster Dominic Oduro start in his place as the lone striker. Oduro has four goals and five assists on the year, but it’s been about eight weeks since he’s hit the back of the net. He’s seen quite a few minutes over the past few weeks and will continue to do so especially while Drogba is out with injury. He’s a quick and pacey forward who can get himself into some dangerous positions and will capitalize on even the smallest defensive lapse.

Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti has been vital for Montreal this year, leading the team with 10 goals scored this season—only two goals behind David Villa in the MLS Golden Boot race. Piatti is an all-around playmaker and by far the most important midfielder they can put on the pitch. If RSL can limit his service and keep him out of the final third, that will be a huge blow to the Montreal attack.

On the Claret-and-Cobalt side, Burrito Martinez has been on a tear lately, scoring four goals in his last six games to total six goals and two assists for the season. Everyone knows that Martinez is magical with the ball at his feet and can get himself out of some incredibly sticky situations. Dribbling through two or three defenders has proved to be something he can pull off on the regular, and other teams are still trying to figure out how to defend him.

Don’t be surprised if Martinez ends up with a goal and an assist in this game, since he’s also got high quality attacking partners in Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan. These three are shaping up to be what other teams have feared since the beginning of the season—the most potent and dangerous attacking trio in MLS with 17 goals and nine assists between them.

RSL expected lineup: Rimando; Phillips, Maund, Glad, Beltran; Beckerman, Morales, Mulholland; Plata, Movsisyan, Martinez

Montreal expected lineup: Bush; Oyongo, Lefevre, Cabrera, Camara; Piatti, Alexander, Shipp, Bernier, Salazar; Oduro