Real Salt Lake and the Rapids have met twice before this season, and on both occasions, RSL have come away with the win. This time is different as RSL has won the Rocky Mountain Cup but is still looking to secure a playoff spot. The race for the last playoff spot in the west is very tight and Real needs to gain points against one of the lowest teams in the standings.
Return from the international break
The international break can be a weird time for players. Between Rusnak, Plata, and Rimando, I imagine that Rusnak had the best week. Albert only had a short run out in Slovakia’s game against Malta, but his side finished second in their group behind England. Plata’s time with an Ecuador side that already couldn’t qualify ended with him being suspended from his national team indefinitely. But it’s hard to imagine a worse fate than traveling with the US to be a part of the team that failed to qualify for a World Cup. All that to say those experiences can have a deep effect on players. My hope is that it lights a fire that makes them show their best at club level and that helps carry RSL to a win.
Savarino injured, Lennon likely to start
Jefferson Savarino suffered a grade 2 ankle sprain against the LA Galaxy and is very doubtful to play. This means we’re likely to see Brooks Lennon take his place in the lineup. We could see Bofo, or even a tweak in the formation, but Lennon seems like the obvious replacement for Jefferson. The loss of Savarino to the lineup is significant; he’s been a bright spot this season, but Lennon is still an exciting player. RSL is reportedly looking to sign both players to full contracts after their loans this year. The question is, can Brooks bring the same attacking pressure that Jefferson adds to the team?
A fighting mentality
RSL is just one point behind FC Dallas, who is in the final playoff spot in the west. FC Dallas controversially was penalized by MLS, rather than being forced to forfeit a match, for playing an ineligible player. Real has already proven they’re able to put goals past the Rapids, but there is so much more on the line now. This isn’t simply the Rocky Mountain Cup, this game is a real chance at the playoffs. Can Mike Petke’s team show the grit and determination to get the job done in Colorado? Real’s final match of the season is a home game that hosts Sporting Kansas City. Two wins in those games might be enough to see Real Salt Lake over the red line.