Winless (and scoreless) in their first two games, Real Salt Lake will look to grab their first three points of the season against an LA Galaxy side who are going through some struggles of their own.
Where they stand
Not that standings matter too much this early in the season, but RSL (0-1-1, 1 point) sits in ninth place in the Western Conference — tied on points with Vancouver and Seattle, but losing out on the goal differential tiebreaker. LA (0-2-0, 0 points) comes in right behind RSL in 10th place, ahead of Minnesota United on goal differential.
Again, we can’t read too much into standings and points after only two games, but it does show that these two teams have had similar starts to the season. LA lost their first two (2-1 against Dallas, 1-0 against Portland), while RSL drew their first (0-0 against Toronto) and lost their second (2-0 against Chicago).
In addition, the stats for the two sides are pretty similar thus far, as they’ve both taken 17 shots with four on target through their first two games.
The last time these clubs met was in the knockout round of last season’s playoffs. As I’m sure everyone remembers — and has been working hard to forget — Salt Lake lost 3-1 in that visit to the StubHub Center to end their season on October 26th.
In their four matches before that, RSL has only won once — on September 19, 2015 when they beat LA 3-0 at home. Those four matches include one 3-3 draw last September, and two LA wins (5-2 and 1-0).
Key players and personnel
In yet another similarity, both sides are struggling with injuries very early on in the season.
LA will be without some of their most influential players such as Giovani dos Santos who’s out with a hamstring strain and Gyasi Zardes, who’s been out this year with a knee injury. In addition, they’ll be without Robbie Rogers and Ashley Cole with an ankle injury and calf strain, respectively. Jelle Van Damme also got a red card in the Portland game this week, so they’ll be without their star center back at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Galaxy also lost star striker Robbie Keane this offseason, who is one of the most potent attackers they’ve ever seen, scoring a total of 83 goals in 125 games for LA. It’s clear that they’ll have trouble making up for his presence on the field, especially if the injury struggles continue to haunt them.
With a couple key additions, the Galaxy aren’t completely down and out. They brought in powerhouse midfielder Jermaine Jones for this season from Colorado, as well as 27-year-old winger Romain Alessandrini from Marseille, who scored 8 goals in 54 appearances for the French side.
Real Salt Lake isn’t without their injuries, either. With a few players still looking doubtful, the claret and cobalt will have to pull from their depth for this game, much like the game in Chicago last week. It looks like RSL will be missing Justen Glad (knee), Jordan Allen (quad strain), and Joao Plata (hip contusion). While Chris Schuler and Aaron Maund trained with the team earlier this week, no official word has been made about whether they’ll be playing this weekend or not.
So with Allen and Plata out, who does that put on the wings to flank either side of Yura Movsisyan?
Luckily, Cassar is spoiled for choice with attacking players, with a veteran in Luis Silva and youngsters Ricardo Velazco, Sebastian Saucedo, and Brooks Lennon all ready and willing to step up and accept the challenge. Silva started in Plata’s place in Chicago, and Velazco was subbed on for the injured Jordan Allen early in that game, so we can probably expect to see them make the starts this weekend.
LA: Gyasi Zardes (knee), Giovani dos Santos (hamstring), Robbie Rogers (ankle), Ashley Cole (calf strain), Jelle Van Damme (red card)
RSL: Justen Glad (knee), Jordan Allen (quad strain), Joao Plata (hip contusion)
LA: Rowe; Garcia, Steres, Romney, Smith; Lletget, Pedro, Husidic, Alessandrini; Boateng, McBean
RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Horst, Schmidt, Wingert; Beckerman, Sunny; Velazco, Rusnak, Silva; Movsisyan
When: Saturday, March 18, 7:30pm MT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT
Weather: 52 degrees, cloudy
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Sorin Stoica