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RSL vs. Minnesota United preview: Shaky defenses meet at Rio Tinto Stadium

Two sides who are in dire need of points to start climbing the table will face off in Sandy.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off for the international break, and a disheartening 4-1 US Open Cup loss, Real Salt Lake gets back to MLS action this weekend as they take on expansion side Minnesota United FC.

Where they stand

RSL (4-10-2, 14 points) sits at 10th place in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of last-place Colorado, who happens to have three games in hand. Coming off two horrific losses in Texas where they were outscored 11-3, RSL hopes to perform better at home and gain some positioning back in the table. Still, they’re only five points below the red line, which doesn’t seem so daunting in the scheme of things for the team with the lowest points-per-game average in the league (0.88).

Minnesota (4-8-2, 14 points) isn’t doing much better, sitting in ninth place due to winning the goal differential tiebreaker. They have two games in hand on RSL, but have struggled to find their identity this season. After a terrible start to the season, they seem to have made defensive improvements so they’re not letting in five or six goals every game anymore — a problem that RSL now struggles with. The Loons are also coming off a brutal exit from the US Open Cup, losing 4-0 to Sporting Kansas City. Their last MLS outing was also against SKC where they lost 3-0.

There’s not much history in this series, since the teams have only met once in their existence. But that one match resulted in Minnesota’s first-ever MLS win as they beat RSL handily by a score of 4-2 back in April.

Key players

With the return of the U-20 players which includes Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo, and Danilo Acosta, RSL will have a much-needed boost to their roster with plenty of attacking options. It’s safe to say that we’ll see Brooks Lennon in the starting lineup on the right wing, along with Glad getting his first minutes of the season. With Demar Phillips still questionable, we could likely even see Acosta starting in the left back position.

Plata, who has shown signs of life over the past few weeks, could be key in the attack combining with Lennon on the wings, providing some solid service for Yura Movsisyan who is in dire need of a goal. We know that the squad will be without Albert Rusnak, who is off on international duty with the Slovakian U-21 team. Whether Petke decides to start Luis Silva in his position will remain to be seen.

Minnesota has plenty of attacking options on their side too, particularly in Kevin Molino and Christian Ramirez, who have a combined 13 of the team’s 19 goals on the season. Molino was a acquired from Jason Kreis’s Orlando City for this season and has been a ray of sunshine for the Loons all year.

On the defensive side, Minnesota recently picked up midfielder Sam Cronin and defender Marc Burch from Colorado, who have made a huge difference and help stop the flood of goals from coming in every single game.

Since both teams have struggled defensively this season, it should be an interesting match to watch, as both attacking sides will likely be looking to take advantage of the other team’s defensive shortcomings to grab an all-too-critical three points.

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Schuler, Glad, Acosta; Sunny, Silva, Beckerman; Lennon, Movsisyan, Plata

Minnesota: Shuttleworth; Burch, Calvo, Kallman, Thiesson; Ibarra, Ibson, Cronin, Molino; Danladi, Ramirez

Match info

When: Saturday, June 17, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 79 degrees, clear

Referee: Marcos DeOliveira