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RSL vs. Colorado Rapids: What We’re Watching

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Mike Petke’s first road game as RSL coach will start the fight for the Rocky Mountain Cup.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After last week’s decisive win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, Real Salt Lake look to take their luck on the road. This will be new head coach Mike Petke’s first away game, and against a club where he once played. Here’s what we’re looking for.

Defensive lineup and performance

If you’ve been paying any attention to RSL lately, you know we have a lot of injuries at the moment. This is most pronounced on the back line. We saw Acosta, Wingert, Schuler, and Phillips keep a clean sheet in the last match and it makes sense that we’d see the same crew in the back this week.

Acosta is not a right back. He wasn’t even a left back until recently. But in his RSL debut he showed that he can play in that role effectively. Since his shift from a defensive midfielder to left back, Acosta has performed well, but still shows signs of his youth. He’s left-footed but is behind Phillips on the depth chart, thus the shift to the right.

The Fab Four

Plata had some great chances that he missed last week. His assist for Rusnak’s goal showed incredible vision and passing skill, but It’s been a disappointing start to the season for the Ecuadorian attacker. I’m hoping that this translates into a hunger to put the ball in the back of the net. Plata was the first player to come off last week, although he has been recovering from a recent injury. I don’t think his early subsitution is a pattern for future games.

Yura has produced three goals this season. That’s not a terrible start, especially when considering the overall performance of RSL in the first five games, but not what you want from your target striker. His work rate has been good and it’ll be interesting to see if that turns into goals.

The Liverpool youngster (and inspiration for this section’s header) has been fun to watch. The kid is fast and technical. He’s got panache. Lennon hasn’t actually had a goal or an assist yet, but as long as he’s on the field, it feels like only a matter of time.

It looks as though the new DP is coming into a rhythm. Rusnak had a goal and two assists last week, and he hasn’t really had a bad game yet. He always looks calm, and there’s an intelligence to his play that lifts the whole team. Honestly, it might be work keeping one eye on him at all time.

Petke

To some degree, everything is on the table with a new head coach. I was impressed by Petke’s subs and presser last week. The “new coach bump” from the team was nice too. I’m excited to hear his reaction to the match, whatever the outcome. He is clear and direct when speaking about the team and player performance. Substitutions are one of the main tools a coach has during a game. It’s simple, but who he chooses will say a lot about what he sees in training and who he trusts.