In their first-ever meeting, two clubs that sit at the bottom of the Western Conference will have it out this weekend as they both look to shake off some bad form and grab their first win of the season.
The road so far
Real Salt Lake (0-2-2, 2 points) sits in ninth place while expansion side Minnesota United (0-3-1, 1 point) are dead last in 11th. For a team that’s given up 18 goals in their first four games — good for the worst start in MLS history — the Loons will hope to rebound from last week’s 5-2 beating they took from New England and grind out a result in front of their fans for their second home game of the season.
After a somewhat surprising 0-0 draw with the Red Bulls, RSL will be inching closer back to full strength, as it was reported that both Jordan Allen and Joao Plata were training this week, which really creates some difficult lineup choices for interim coach Daryl Shore, as he still holds the reins for one more game until newly-appointed head coach Mike Petke takes over.
Just because Minnesota’s defense has been leaking an insane amount of goals doesn’t mean that this will be a cake walk for the visitors.
While Real Salt Lake has only allowed four goals through their first four games — all four coming in only two games, as they have two 0-0 draws — they only have one goal to show for their attack which has been struggling since the final months of last season. Minnesota, however, has scored six goals throughout their campaign so far, and have yet to be shut out by any opposition.
With an incredibly important game at home — and one that won’t be played in a snowstorm — the Loons have a lot to play for.
Key players and personnel
In addition to the possible return of Plata and Allen, RSL will also see Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Albert Rusnak back on the field as they are all back from suspension and international duty, respectively. Last week at Red Bull Arena we saw some solid defensive play which marked the first appearance of center-back tandem Aaron Maund and Chris Schuler this season.
While Minnesota’s defense is nothing to write home about thus far, their attack has shown a lot of promise, led by NASL relic Christian Ramirez and former Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino. Each player has two goals apiece, while Ramirez has an assist and scored the club’s first-ever MLS goal when he came off the bench in week one against the Portland Timbers. Since then, he’s solidified himself as a regular starter on Adrian Heath’s squad.
The Loons are also recovering from a thin lineup last week, as they didn’t even have enough players to fill out the bench against New England due to losing 10 guys to injury and international call-ups. Many of those absences will be back this week, including Molino, and Costa Rican international defender Francisco Calvo.
It’s tough to say whether Shore will stick with the same frontline he trotted out against New York, especially if both Plata and Allen turn out to be available for selection. Spoiled for choice on the wings, youngsters Brooks Lennon and Bofo Saucedo have been making a huge case as to why they should see more playing time, if not lock down the starting roles altogether. They have both shown that they’re dynamic, creative players and can run at defenders one-on-one, as well as provide Yura Movsisyan with some quality service inside the 18.
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Justen Glad (knee), Jordan Allen (quad strain), Joao Plata (hip contusion), David Horst (knee), Tony Beltran (back)
OUT: Bernardo Anor (leg), Patrick McLain (concussion), John Alvbage (knee), Joseph Greenspan (concussion)
Real Salt Lake: Rimando; Beltran, Maund, Schuler, Phillips; Beckerman, Mulholland; Lennon, Rusnak, Saucedo; Movsisyan
Minnesota United: Shuttleworth; Thiesson, Kallman, Calvo, Davis; Warner, Schuller; Molino, J. Venegas, Ibarra; Ramirez
When: Saturday, April 1, 6:00pm MT
Where: TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, MN
Weather: 45 degrees, mostly cloudy
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Armando Villarreal