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Real Salt Lake vs. New York City FC: What we’re watching

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RSL host NYCFC in the middle of a busy stretch of games for both sides.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s first midweek game sees New York City FC come to Rio Tinto Stadium. NYCFC is 5-3-2 this season and David Villa is still as dangerous as ever, but this team no longer relies on one or two star players. Real will be looking to mix things up with a new attacking player and some formation changes, but could also see the reintroduction of veterans like Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman.

The New Kid

Jefferson Savarino was only in Salt Lake a few days before RSL’s trip to New England. If there’s any bright spot in a 4-0 loss to a team that is nearly last in the eastern conference, it was Savarino’s debut. He played for almost a half hour, had two shots on goal, and looked good considering the circumstances. The Venezuelan forward is only 20 years old and is the second Young Designated Player the team signed this year. It’s likely we see him get a start this Wednesday. It’s not totally clear where he’s play. Jefferson’s preferred spot is right wing, but he’s comfortable playing on either wing, as well as an attacking mid and center striker, basically anywhere up top, so it will come down to formation and the coach’s decision.

The Formation

Last week we saw a break in (recent) tradition and the team went with a 4-4-2. Mike Petke discussed his formational preferences on this week’s On Frame on ESPN 700. Petke talked about how he’s less about the exact formation, but wants to see certain positions doing specific things, such as a true number six (d mid), a true number 8 (central mid), the outside backs getting up field, and wingers offering outlet play. Our attack hasn’t worked well, so having two up top might allow for Plata and Movsisyan to operate at their best. We’ll stick with a back four, but the way the mid field lines up will be interesting. I don’t think we see a return to the diamond we saw under Kreis, but we could see something similar. Or we might see two more defensive midfielders and two more attacking mids. It’s all on the table with Petke right now and it’ll be interesting to see how we line up.

The Backups

We have a unique opportunity due to injury; we get to see a lot of players get minutes they wouldn’t see if the whole team was healthy. This might not feel like a blessing, but my favorite game last year was Kansas City away when we had to rely heavily on bench players and we still won. On the road. Against Sporting KC. That was one of the first times we saw Justen Glad shine. We now get to see guys like Velazco, Holness, Hernandez, Dunk, and Van Oekel get meaningful minutes. It’s not ideal, but it means these players get to grow and, hopefully, prove themselves.