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RSL vs. San Jose preview: West teams battle for playoff points

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RSL takes on San Jose in a virtual must-win during an important playoff push.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Bouncing back after a disheartening 3-1 loss in Montreal, RSL returns home to host two home games in four days, beginning on Wednesday with a visit from the San Jose Earthquakes.

There have been some wild games and moments in the series between these two clubs, including a 2-1 SJ win earlier this year, a 5-0 blowout in SJ’s favor back in 2012, and a Wondo goal that was allowed when he was offside by at least a mile.

The last time they met was at Avaya Stadium on June 25, where the Earthquakes bested the visitors 2-1, thanks to goals from Danny Hoesen and Marco Urena. RSL was able to pull one back in the 94th minute with a goal from Jose Hernandez, but it wasn’t enough as the ‘Quakes snagged all three points in the end.

The teams are nearly deadlocked in the all-time series, though, with RSL going 9-10-9 against San Jose in MLS regular season play.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 8-13-5 (29 points)
Table: 8th place (west), 18th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.12 (18th in MLS)
Most goals: Yura Movsisyan & Joao Plata (6)
Most assists: Albert Rusnak (8)

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Silva’s emergence

Though Mike Petke has been starting Luis Silva at center forward for a while now, he’s only recently been showing what he’s capable of as it seems the flood gates may have opened for him in recent weeks. Scoring three goals in his last six games — two of those coming in his last two outings, Silva has been the go-to man for Petke up top and has been a huge part in the recent improved RSL attack.

If he can keep performing and scoring like we know he has the ability to, there’s no telling how many goals he’ll end up with by the end of the season, especially with Yura Movsisyan playing less and less these days. Movsisyan and Joao Plata are tied for the team’s top scoring honors with six apiece, but Silva is slowly inching his way toward that number. Once he can put the majority of his shots on frame, he’ll be even more of a threat.

Down but not out

The 3-1 loss in Montreal may have set them off track a bit, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the race yet.

There are eight games left to go in the regular season. What?! How did we get here so fast? Regardless, RSL sits just five points below the red line, while Vancouver holds the sixth and final playoff spot with 34 points. There’s still a decent chance that RSL can grab that final spot, but they’re going to have to start winning immediately.

San Jose is a great team to start with, seeing as how they’re just above RSL with 33 points in seventh place. Wednesday’s game is absolutely crucial if RSL wants to have a solid chance at making the playoffs again. If they win, they’ll be within one point of San Jose, and potentially two points away from sixth place.

If they lose, they could potentially fall eight points back of sixth place, and seven points being San Jose.

We mean it when we say that these next two home games against San Jose and Colorado are absolute must-wins for RSL if they want to compete for the cup.

Full steam ahead

With no new injuries to report, Petke is virtually spoiled for choice at nearly every position. Even in the absence of Demar Phillips, both Chris Wingert and Danny Acosta have stepped in at the left-back position and played exceptionally well for the most part.

Although Movsisyan has been coming off the bench as a late-game sub lately, we’re expecting to see the return of Chad Barrett sometime in the near future, so it will be interesting to see whether Yura stays as the first sub on at center forward, or if he falls behind Barrett in the pecking order.

San Jose Earthquakes

Record: 9-10-6 (33 points)
Table: 7th place (west), 14th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.32 (14th in MLS)
Most goals: Chris Wondolowski (10)
Most assists: Chris Wondolowski (5)

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a Wondo-full life

It’s no secret that Chris Wondolowski has been the key to this team’s success for nearly as long as he’s been a part of it. Leading the team in both goals (10) and assists (5), they wouldn’t be where they are in the standings without him, regardless of the new signings they brought in ahead of this season.

The 34-year-old has scored 127 goals for the Earthquakes in only 245 appearances, averaging just a hair over one goal every two games. The guy continues to find ways to produce, more often than not finding himself in the right place at the right time to put away those goals that can happen in the blink of an eye.

Ups and downs galore

Coming off of a draw against Philly and a 3-0 loss to Houston, San Jose will be looking to bounce back and improve on their road form, which has been dismal at best. They’ve gone 2-9-1 on the road this season, good for a whopping seven points in total.

That’s a little different than their home record, which is an impressive 7-1-5, one of only four teams in the west who have lost less than two games at home.

Playing at Rio Tinto Stadium will be no walk in the park, either. While the ‘Quakes know they need these three points to inch closer to the red line, RSL has been in pretty great form lately themselves, and have been just centimeters away from securing all the points possible in their last few home games.

Near full strength

The Earthquakes are only missing three players due to injury — Harold Cummings with leg surgery, Marc Pelosi due to a knee injury, and Marvell Wynne out with a heart abnormality. Granted, none of those players have seen a minute of play all season, so it’s nothing that San Jose’s not used to.

The only other absence the ‘Quakes will have to adjust for is defender Andres Imperiale, who will sit this game out due to yellow card accumulation.


Leading scorers

RSL: Joao Plata (6), Yura Movsisyan (6), Albert Rusnak (5), Jefferson Savarino (3), Luis Silva (3), Kyle Beckerman (3)

SJE: Chris Wondolowski (10), Jahmir Hyka (3), Marco Urena (3)

Absences

RSL
OUT: Jordan Allen (knee), Chad Barrett (knee), Omar Holness (knee), Demar Phillips (hamstring), Matt Van Oekel (ankle), Ricardo Velazco (ankle)

SJE
OUT: Harold Cummings (leg), Marc Pelosi (knee), Marvell Wynne (heart abormality), Andres Imperiale (yellow card accumulation)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Glad, M Silva, Wingert; Beckerman, Sunny; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L Silva

SJE: Tarbell; Affolter, Bernardez, Jungwirth; Sarkodie, Ceren, Godoy, Thompson, Salinas; Qazaishvili, Wondolowski

Match info

When: Wednesday, August 23, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 68 degrees, clear skies

Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700 (radio), MLS Live

Referee: Silviu Petrescu (2017: 11 games, 45 yellow cards, 0 red cards, 2 penalties)