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RSL vs. Orlando City preview: Kreis returns in search of win

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Jason Kreis makes only his second return to Rio Tinto Stadium as his Orlando City SC squad will look to turn their recent poor form into fortune.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Orlando Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake will face off against its former head coach Jason Kreis and Orlando City SC as two teams in relatively poor form both vie for an important three points on Friday night.

Where they stand

RSL (5-11-2, 17 points) sits in second-to-last place after a disappointing 2-1 loss on the road last week against the San Jose Earthquakes. They’re just one point ahead of last-place Colorado, but the Rapids still have two games in hand. While it looks grim staring down the bottom of the table, on the bright side they’re only five points out of the playoff race, with plenty of time to make up ground if they can continue to find their attacking form.

Orlando (7-6-5, 26 points) is planted firmly in fourth place in the eastern conference, despite an ongoing five-game winless streak which includes a 4-0 blowout at the hands of the Chicago Fire last week. They’ve been without star striker Cyle Larin, who has been undergoing the MLS SABH program following his DUI arrest. He’s been cleared to return to the team as of this week, though, so there’s a good chance that the Lions will see an extra boost of firepower this weekend with his return.

Since this is only the third time these clubs have met, there’s not a whole lot of series stats to run through. Through the two matches they’ve played, we’ve yet to find a winner. Both games ended in a draw — last year Orlando mounted a stoppage-time comeback to score two goals and end the game 2-2, while the year before saw a 1-1 draw and the infamous Kaka red card.

Key players and personnel

Kreis’ squad is pretty loaded with talent — from the international legend Kaka, to Cyle Larin, to our other old friend midfielder Will Johnson. Johnson landed in Orlando after he left Toronto FC at the end of last year, and has been an absolute beast for Kreis in the midfield.

While Kaka missed the bulk of the season’s beginning with an injury, he’s slowly made his way back into the squad and has notched himself three goals and three assists since his return.

Cyle Larin is the team’s leading scorer with eight goals and one assist on the season, though he missed the team’s last two outings. There’s been plenty of buzz about Larin going overseas for a ridiculous amount of money, which presumably would help and hurt Orlando all at the same time, by losing their best attacking player but freeing up some salary cap to hunt down a replacement. The summer transfer window could prove to be very interesting for the Lions.

This week sees the return of Albert Rusnak for RSL, who has been sorely missed in the midfield. He’s been out on international duty with the Slovakian U-21 team, but has returned and will likely get the starting nod against Orlando. Jefferson Savarino has done well in his absences, but bringing Rusnak back in the mix will free up Savarino to play in a different spot, though we’ll see if Mike Petke opts to start him in the midfield or on a wing, or maybe bring him in as a second-half sub.

Petke is spoiled for choice this week, with a nearly fully-healthy lineup. With Brooks Lennon, Joao Plata, Bofo Saucedo, Yura Movsisyan, Luis Silva, and Savarino all vying for spots in the lineup, Petke has some tough decisions to make with some serious talent on the line.

We do know that the same injuries from last week will hold — Jordan Allen out with his hamstring injury, Chad Barrett still out recovering from his knee surgery, and Demar Phillips, Sunny, and Tony Beltran all listed as questionable. Danny Acosta has done a fantastic job slotting in for Phillips at left back, and we’ll likely see him get the start again this week as well.

Orlando’s injury list is a bit shorter than RSL’s, as they’re only missing Carlos Rivas, who’s listed as questionable with a sprained ankle. They’ll be able to field a nearly full first-choice starting eleven.

RSL will look to extend its winning streak at home to four this week, while they’re still riding a poor road losing streak of six after last week’s loss to San Jose. This is only the second time Jason Kreis has returned to Rio Tinto Stadium since he left the club in 2013 — the only previous visit being with New York City FC in 2015.


Leading scorers

RSL: Yura Movsisyan (5), Albert Rusnak (3), Luke Mulholland (2), Joao Plata (2)

Orlando: Cyle Larin (8), Kaka (3), Carlos Rivas (3)

Absences

RSL
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee), Jordan Allen (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: Demar Phillips (hamstring), Tony Beltran (back), Sunny (hamstring)

Orlando
QUESTIONABLE: Carlos Rivas (ankle)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Acosta, Glad, Maund, Wingert; Mulholland, Beckerman; Lennon, Rusnak, Plata; Movsisyan

Orlando: Bendik; Sutter, Redding, Spector, PC; Johnson, Nocerino, Higuita, Kaka; Larin, Barry

Match info

When: Friday, June 30, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, Utah

Weather: 63 degrees, clear

Referee: Robert Sibiga