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Real Salt Lake has struggled recently — but positive signs are there. Will they play out against LA Galaxy?

Ricardo Velazco strikes the ball (and a defender) against Toronto FC in RSL’s 2017 home opener.
John Engels

If you’ve been watching Real Salt Lake in the past two weeks, you’ll understand that things have been a bit rocky to start the season.

For that reason, you might be expecting to read about how everyone’s awful and how we should sack everyone that blinks — and sure, that’s one opinion to have. But given how little control I have over that (read: none), I’d rather talk about something we can at least witness, and that’s player performance.

I know, I know. You want to yell about Jeff Cassar. I don’t blame you. But there are clearly some early-season jitters at play, and they’re affecting player performances. Let’s talk about those.

Up: Justin Schmidt

After a preseason where his actual performances were certainly not always great (rather, they were riddled with errors, even if he did recover from them), Justin Schmidt stepped into a starting role on Saturday and was wholly impressive. He was calm, smart and influential. Color me surprised, but this is certainly a good sign moving forward.

Prediction: Schmidt stays about where he is for a bit. Remember, he’s still a rookie.

Down: Sunny

Oh, man. Last year, we bemoaned the loss of Sunny to injury. He was a hugely important piece of our midfield. A broken face and lots of time off in which he couldn’t train might have made more of an impact than I realized, because Sunny has been severely lacking in that differentiating quality that made me fall in love with his play.

Prediction: Luke Mulholland takes his place, and then Sunny suddenly looks like his old self coming off the bench.

Up: Luke Mulholland

Some would say I was too harsh on Luke Mulholland last year, and the year before that and, well, the year before that. Maybe I was. But right now, Luke Mulholland is showing that as a substitute, he can change the pace of a game. That’s hugely important, and we should be excited about that.

Prediction: He’s up for a start next game. No question.

Down: Jordan Allen

It pains me to put a ‘down’ by Jordan Allen’s name, especially when it’s no fault of his own. But the fact of the matter is that he’s suffered another injury — a quad strain this time — and we’re probably going to be without him for a short while. That stings.

Prediction: Allen’s out for at least a week, but probably more than that.

Up: Chad Barrett

I mean, I didn’t expect to write this, either. But Chad Barrett, when coming on as a substitute, has shown a willingness to play a role, and he’s done it ably. That speaks volumes, and frankly, we’ve needed a player like that for a while. With players like Olmes Garcia and Devon Sandoval, we lacked somebody with the experience to understand how to best influence the game from the bench. Barrett’s got that.

Prediction: A goal against LA Galaxy for one Mr. Chad Barrett.

Down: Yura Movsisyan

The goals simply aren’t coming for Yura right now, but this isn’t about “one chance” or anything like that. (It’s been a year since that statement. Let’s give it a rest, please.) It’s more that Movsisyan has had good opportunities and not put them away, and he needs to start doing that. He’s not in danger of losing his starting spot, and he is doing good things out there, but he has a lot he needs to improve on if this formation and tactical approach is to work.

Prediction: Yura starts, Yura scores this weekend.

Up: Ricardo Velazco

He’s come on twice, and he’s impressed twice. He’s made some young mistakes, but at the same time, he’s been on the ball, he’s put himself in pretty good positions, and he’s starting to look like he could be a good MLS player for us. It’s going to continue taking him time to get in there, but if the injury cards fall right, he might find himself in a starting position as soon as Saturday. It’ll be a huge test for the youngster, but not one he has to pass right now. He deserves time to make it work.

Prediction: He won’t start on Saturday, and we’ll be angry about it.