For the first time since Mike Petke took over at Real Salt Lake, he has a squad that’s mostly injury free and available for selection.
That’s remarkable, given RSL was down to 14 available field players only last week, which placed them only just above the threshold for calling in a Real Monarchs player. And after Wednesday’s loss, which involved eight Real Monarchs players, that doesn’t seem to have changed too much.
The only two players listed on Mike Petke’s absence list? Albert Rusnak, who’s away with Slovakia’s U-21 side as they play for European gold, and Chad Barrett, who’s injury will keep him out until uhhhhh... playoffs? You know, if that happens at all. Man.
Oh, and Sunny, who apparently picked up a knock in training on Thursday, but he hasn’t been ruled out.
Still, that’s pretty good. So who starts? Well, let’s take a walk through my preferred lineup — or at least what I think Mike Petke might decide.
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando
There’s not much question here, but it’s always worth mentioning that Rimando’s pretty good at his job.
Right back: Tony Beltran
Again, no question. It’s not as if he’s getting any bit of pressure from Reagan Dunk, he offers more than Chris Wingert, and he provides a potentially stabilizing influence. You know, if we can figure things out.
Center backs: David Horst, Justen Glad
At this point, it’s sort of a given that these two have performed better for RSL over the last two months than any RSL center back (you know, taken in totality, not on a game-by-game basis), so they deserve to start. Really, though, I think Glad is basically a certainty, and Horst is maybe a 50-50 decision between him and, say, Chris Schuler.
Left back: Danilo Acosta
I can’t say I’m 100 percent on this one, but Acosta has been very good for RSL, and starting him makes good sense. But he is young and all, and that could be enough for Demar Phillips to get the start. Again, I’m not certain about this one.
Defensive midfielders: Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland
Let’s be clear about this: We’re not starting Omar Holness against Minnesota United. Sunny’s potentially injured. Luis Silva hasn’t been deployed in the midfield for a while. Kyle Beckerman’s our captain. Luke Mulholland’s a natural choice.
See, we don’t have many choices in the midfield right now, and even still, this might be our best pairing. Maybe. I’m realizing more and more I don’t know anything about our midfield right now.
Attacking midfielder: Joao Plata
You know, until Mike Petke made a comment on Friday about Rusnak’s absence, I would have either put Plata on the left wing, or I’d have kept him out of the lineup. But my frustration with him doesn’t mean Petke’s so petty as I am, and I think Plata starts here. That comment?
It would be easy to just have one guy put in for Albert. But it’s another thing to have a player on the field who plays in another position who can play in that position and has a lot of qualities, and then it’s moving two positions for one. I’m not a big guy for moving two positions for one, but perhaps this time, I’m going to, because of the quality that player would bring. I think this is going to be a straight-up, this guy goes in for what Albert’s role is. He understands the role, and really, that’s it. It’s just being a lot more stingy behind the front four.
Yeah, that’s Plata.
Wingers: Brooks Lennon, Jefferson Savarino
Pretty natural options here. Jordan Allen’s not ready to start in an MLS match, if Wednesday is an indicator. Lennon and Savarino are probably our best options, and that leaves Sebastian Saucedo on the bench, which is probably about right, given he played 90 minutes on Wednesday.
Forwards: Yura Movsisyan
I know Movsisyan has been a slightly controversial figure at Real Salt Lake, but I do think he starts. There’s not much to say here that hasn’t already been said.