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RSL vs. San Jose preview: Hopeful times ahead on the road

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RSL looks to break their five-game losing streak on the road, with a revitalized and nearly full strength squad as they head to San Jose.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake travels to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes in week 17 action at Avaya Stadium, while they hope to build off of their impressive offensive performance last week at home against Minnesota United.

Where they stand

Real Salt Lake (5-10-2, 17 points), while still sitting in second-to-last place just one point ahead of the Colorado Rapids, have now won their last three matches at home and are only three points out of the playoff picture, and only 10 points out of first place in a tight race in the Western Conference table.

With a less-than-stellar track record on the road this season (1-7-1, 26 goals allowed), RSL will hope to add a second win in that column as they face off against Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes, who are now winless in three overall. While RSL have lost their last five on the road, the impressive attacking and defending display they showed against Minnesota last week at home can give fans some hope for upcoming games, especially with the return of many injured and absent players that seem to have breathed some life into this squad.

San Jose (5-6-5, 20 points) sits in seventh place, firmly in a three-way tie with Seattle and Vancouver based on points, but falls right in the middle of the three based on goal differential. They’re now winless in three, coming off of a 0-0 draw at home against Sporting Kansas City last week. The ‘Quakes gave up six goals combined in the two matches prior to that one.

Match history

These two sides have produced some wild results over the years, and the all-time series is deadlocked, with each team recording nine wins, nine losses, and nine draws. The only edge given is to San Jose, who’s outscored RSL 38-35 through 27 games played overall.

San Jose has won two of the last five outings, while two more have ended in draws and RSL has come out on top once, back in April of 2015.

The last time these teams met was October 1, 2016, when San Jose hosted RSL and came out on top by a score of 2-1, thanks to goals from Simon Dawkins and Fatai Alashe. Justen Glad notched the lone goal for the visitors in the 40th minute, but it wouldn’t be enough as Alashe’s goal in the 72nd minute would seal the deal for the home side.

Key players and personnel

This week will mark perhaps the closest RSL has ever been to a full-strength squad. Their absences are pretty minimal this week, which is a drastic improvement from other weeks where the list was as high as 12. Kyle Beckerman received his fifth yellow card of the season last week so he’ll serve a one-game suspension this weekend, while Albert Rusnak is still out on international duty with the Slovakian U-20 squad. Jordan Allen is still listed as out with that nagging knee injury as well. Demar Phillips and Sunny are both listed as questionable, both with hamstring injuries, but should be due back anytime now and could even make appearances this weekend for all we know.

Chris Schuler missed last week’s lineup as well, but his injury seemed very minor, so we’ll wait to see if he’s fully available for this weekend’s match as he’s not listed on the injury report.

MLS: Real Salt Lake vs Minnesota United FC
Jordan Allen hasn’t seen any first team minutes since he was injured in the second game of the season.
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Not only does this put pressure on Mike Petke now that he’s somewhat spoiled for choice, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on nearly every player in every position, as RSL boasts a bevy of quality down the line in each spot, as guys like Jordan Allen, Bofo Saucedo, David Horst, and Danny Acosta will be fighting to get minutes on the field since none of them have locked down their starting positions.

Last week saw some impressive attacking play while Jefferson Savarino pulled the strings in Rusnak’s absence, and Luis Silva put on a show in his best performance of the season by far, although it would be Yura Movsisyan who ended up getting the game-winning goal after coming on as a late sub. Brooks Lennon made plenty of dangerous runs and really showed why he deserves to be on the field — and most likely will continue to start on the right wing. The defense didn’t go unnoticed, either, as Justen Glad’s 2017 debut was a breath of fresh air and he was a key factor in keeping a clean sheet against the visitors.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes
Wondo is San Jose’s leading scorer, with six goals and five assists on the season.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose, on the other hand, is missing more than a few important players, as Quincy Amarikwa hasn’t seen any time this season due to his ACL/LCL injury. The ‘Quakes will also be without arguably their best defender in Florian Jungwirth, who’s out with an ankle injury. Even Fatai Alashe is listed as questionable, which would only help RSL’s case to minimizing goals on the road.

If RSL can limit service to SJ’s leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, they have a good shot at keeping the ball out of the back of the net. Wondo has six goals, while the next high scorer is Jahmir Hyka with three — and he hasn’t scored since the 20th of May.

A full three points would do wonders for Real Salt Lake in the standings — and depending on how other results go this weekend, they may only be able to move up one spot to ninth place, but they could also see themselves right back in the playoff mix, tied on points with three other teams for the sixth spot. However, a loss could see them drop to last place if Colorado happens to beat or tie Atlanta on Saturday.


Leading scorers

Real Salt Lake: Yura Movsisyan (5), Albert Rusnak (3), Joao Plata (2), Luke Mulholland (2)

San Jose Earthquakes: Chris Wondolowski (6), Jahmir Hyka (3), Florian Jungwirth (2), Anibal Godoy (2)

Absences

Real Salt Lake
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee surgery), Albert Rusnak (international duty), Kyle Beckerman (yellow card accumulation), Jordan Allen (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Demar Phillips (hamstring), Sunny (hamstring)

San Jose Earthquakes
OUT: Quincy Amarikwa (torn ACL, LCL), Marc Pelosi (knee injury), Marvell Wynne (heart abnormality), Harold Cummings (leg surgery), Florian Jungwirth (ankle injury)
QUESTIONABLE: Fatai Alashe (knee injury), Shaun Francis (hamstring injury)

Expected lineups

RSL: (4-2-3-1) — Rimando; Acosta, Maund, Glad, Beltran; Holness, Mulholland; Plata, Savarino, Lennon; Movsisyan

SJ: (4-4-2) — Bingham; Sarkodie, Imperiale, Bernardez, Lima; Hyka, Thompson, Godoy, Cato; Hoesen, Wondolowski

Match info

When: Saturday, June 24, 8:30PM MT

Where: Avaya Stadium — San Jose, CA

Weather: 65 degrees, clear skies

Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live

Referee: Fotis Bazakos