Coming off their 4-0 loss in New England, Real Salt Lake is preparing for the first of two games this week when New York City FC rolls into town for only the second time since they joined the league in 2015.
RSL (2-7-2, 8 points) will look to put an end to their four-game losing streak that has seen them outscored 13-1 overall by their opponents. Sitting in 10th place in the West, one point above Colorado who has two games in hand, now would be an ideal time for RSL to start picking up some points.
The good news is that some of the players who have been out with injury will start coming back, even as early as Wednesday. Mike Petke told the Salt Lake Tribune’s Chris Kamrani that Kyle Beckerman, who has been out for three games with a calf injury, will be available for this game barring any sort of last-minute re-injury. He also mentioned that Nick Rimando has a good shot at being ready to play as well.
Both players returning would be a big sigh of relief for RSL, who has been struggling on the defensive side of the ball amidst all the injuries and absences.
NYCFC (5-3-2, 17 points) find themselves in a pretty good spot as they currently sit in fourth place in the East, just eight points behind conference-leaders Toronto FC. They’re coming off a 1-1 draw in Dallas, against the last unbeaten team in the league. With three road games in nine days, there’s a good chance that head coach Patrick Vieira will rotate some of his more important players to get them a good amount of rest between matches, which can only bode well for RSL.
Since New York City is only in their third year of existence, the teams have a pretty short history that only includes two games. Real Salt Lake has managed to win both of those matches — a 2-0 win at home in 2015 against a Jason Kreis-led squad, and a 3-2 win at Yankee Stadium in 2016, outscoring the City side 5-2 overall.
The away win last year was ultimately decided by an own goal in the 74th minute from NYC defender Frederic Brillant, which put RSL up 3-1. David Villa drove home a penalty kick in the 87th minute to pull one back for the home side, but it wasn’t enough as goals from Yura Movsisyan and Burrito Martinez earlier in the match would round out the scoring for the visitors.
It’s no secret that everyone’s excited about RSL’s new signing in Venezuelan attacker Jefferson Savarino. Standing as the bright spot in a very dismal loss in New England, Savarino was subbed in for Joao Plata in the 61st minute and immediately made an impact, registering a shot on frame within three minutes of being on the field. He showed his speed and agility right off the bat, which is something that RSL can use going forward especially with the absences of Brooks Lennon and Bofo Saucedo.
Savarino scored 32 goals in four years with Venezeulan side Zulia FC, and RSL hopes he can bring that talent and production to their club.
RSL also looks to be without left back Demar Phillips, who left last week’s game with an apparent hamstring injury.
Mike Petke decided against the traditional 4-3-3 that RSL has been with for the last few years as he switched back to a diamond 4-4-2 last week as he experimented with the squad due to all the absences. Should he stick with that formation this week, we can expect to see Albert Rusnak at the point of the diamond while Beckerman would most likely get the start as the lone holding midfielder.
Last week against FC Dallas, NYC was held to just one shot on target, with a total of 14 registered. That one shot from Tommy McNamara ended up being the goal that secured a draw for the visiting City side, and put his tally at two goals and one assist on the season so far. David Villa — who has only missed one game this year — is clearly their most potent attacking piece, with six goals and four assists to his name in this campaign. It remains to be seen whether Vieira will start him in this match, or sit him on the bench to rest for their trip to Orlando on Sunday, with the option of bringing him on later in the game if the scoreline calls for it.
Jack Harrison (four goals, two assists) and Rodney Wallace (three goals, three assists) round out the attack for the visitors, and have both shown that they’re staples in this squad. However, Andrea Pirlo — City’s near-six-million-dollar designated player — has been benched for the last three games. It’s likely that he’ll get the start this week in Sandy as Vieira sets his rotations.
While it’s hard to predict who will start on the field and who will start on the bench, this game is an important one for both sides, as NYCFC looks to extend its three-game unbeaten streak while RSL hopes to snap its four-game losing skid.
Real Salt Lake travels to Seattle to face off with another tough opponent in the Sounders on Saturday, while New York City FC heads to Orlando to battle with former NYC and RSL boss Jason Kreis and his squad, who are unbeaten at home this season.
Real Salt Lake: Yura Movsisyan (4), Albert Rusnak (2), Luke Mulholland (2), Brooks Lennon (1)
New York City: David Villa (6), Jack Harrison (4), Rodney Wallace (3)
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee), David Horst (knee), Justen Glad (int’l duty/knee injury), Tony Beltran (back), Brooks Lennon (int’l duty), Sebastian Saucedo (int’l duty), Danilo Acosta (int’l duty)
QUESTIONABLE: Jordan Allen (quad strain), Demar Phillips (hamstring)
New York City
OUT: Ronald Matarrita (ankle), Yangel Herrera (int’l duty)
QUESTIONABLE: Khiry Shelton (hamstring)
Real Salt Lake: Van Oekel; Dunk, Schuler, Maund, Wingert; Sunny, Beckerman, Mulholland, Rusnak; Movsisyan, Plata
New York City: Johnson; White, Chanot, Callens, Sweat; Ring, Pirlo, McNamara; Harrison, Villa, Wallace
When: Wednesday, May 17, 7:00PM MT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT
Weather: 37 degrees, snow flurries
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Silviu Petrescu (2017 stats: 10 games, 20 yellow cards, 0 red cards, 1 penalty)