Returning home after a difficult loss to the Chicago Fire, Real Salt Lake will hope to score their first goal and secure their first win of the season. RSL has had a slightly better start to their season than LA Galaxy, who has lost both matches, but the Claret-and-Cobalt will have to be careful against a revamped Galaxy side that had their number all last season.
The Keys to the Attack
Like RSL, the Galaxy are dealing with a fair amount of injuries to start off 2017. While the Claret-and-Cobalt are struggling to plug holes at the back, the LA attack has been decimated.
Robbie Keane, a major player in the attack for the Galaxy, moved on from the club after his contract expired at the end of 2016.
Still, LA had some potent attackers in Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, both of whom are likely out with a hamstring strain and knee surgery, respectfully.
In dos Santos’ absence, expect the Galaxy to revert back to the tried and tested flat midfield 4-4-2 over the more recent 4-4-1-1 adaptation. This could also mean that Jermaine Jones is given the play-maker role for this match.
Jones has previously played as a hybrid No. 10 with the US National Team and the Colorado Rapids, but never with the Galaxy.
What to watch
With Jones expected to take on a new role in the midfield, LA will still need to .
LA will still need to address the inability to convert chances up-top and when it comes to scoring against RSL, no one has been better at it than Emmanual Boateng. If the last few match-ups between these two sides are any indication, the Galaxy will take heart in knowing that Boateng has scored an average of 1.3 goals against the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2016.
As such, Real’s defense will need to find a way to inhibit the play of Boateng, even if Kyle Beckerman is devoted to shadowing him the entire match.
Which Defense will Crumble First?
Both RSL and the Galaxy have started the year with a goal deficit. Reasons and excuses aside, this will have to be remedied if either club hopes to be above the red line when the season comes to a close.
Playing away from home, the LA defense will have to absorb pressure placed on it by the host’s attackers. While the Galaxy would be content with a point, RSL will not be in front of their fans - especially after the last two weeks.
As LA’s defense sits back, RSL will have to use their control of the game in the opposition’s half in order to create something meaningful.
With Allen out, and possibly Plata, look for RSL to rely on depth that has returned from a successful CONCACAF U-20s Tournament - Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.
What to watch
Look to Yura Movsisyan to put increased pressure on the Galaxy back-line with LA’s first choice center-back and captain, Jelle Van Damme, serves his one match suspension after his red card against Portland.
Movsisyan will work to exploit the expected lack of chemisty between thecentral defenders to split them. If he is able to do this, expect him to score his first - if not more - goals in 2017.
Keys to the Match
1. Converting opportunities – Last year, RSL was criticized for taking too few chances, but this year they are simply failing to convert those opportunities. RSL should use their home advantage to string together some good build-up play, rather than looking to the quick-counter all the time.
2. Working to keep a clean-sheet – As previously mentioned, both squads have started the 2017 season with a goal deficit. A clean-sheet would go a long way towards remedying the current situation. Taking baby steps towards improving the fundamentals of the game could help RSL get back on track, despite a injury stricken back-line.
3. Winning aerial duels – While RSL has struggled in the air, LA has been dominate. The Claret-and-Cobalt have been good at defending set-pieces albeit, but they must look to win the crosses the Galaxy are going to pepper Real’s 18-yard-box with. Whomever starts in central defense needs to dominate their area.
Expected LA Galaxy Lineup (4-4-2):
DEF: Garcia, Steres, Romney, Smith
MID: Lletget, Pedro, Jones, Alessandrini
ATT: McBean, Boateng
Watch RSL take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday March 18th at 7:30 pm MST at Rio Tinto Stadium, on KMYU, or listen to Bill Riley on ESPN 700.