2018 is shaping up to be a great year for Real Salt Lake, and fans are genuinely excited for this upcoming season. One of the things that means the most to fans are games at home, and even more specifically, wins at home. Here are a few reasons why I believe that RSL will excel at home in 2018 and the RioT will once again be the fortress that we all expect it to be.
Looking at the 2018 schedule, my first observation is that thus far, we are only scheduled to have a three-game week three times during the season. Furthermore, five of the nine games in these three-game weeks are at home. In an overall first look of the schedule, it appears as if RSL will typically have plenty of recovery time between matches prior to home matches, meaning that the boys will be fresh and ready to give their best effort on their home field.
Another observation under this heading is that 12 of RSL’s 17 home games are against Western Conference opponents. Given how closely the playoff race in the Western Conference ended last year, you can expect that the players will all be planning on getting 3 points at home against Western Conference opponents. The motivation of coming so close last year will push our players to succeed even more.
Three of RSL’s five non-conference home games are against DC United, Montreal Impact, and New England Revolution, none of whom made the MLS playoffs in 2017. The other two non-conference home games are against New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire. New York slid into the 6th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference last year, and seem to be reorganizing their team a little bit after recently trading captain and USMNT player Sacha Kljestan. We see them early in the year, and can hope that the disturbance of losing their captain to a trade for the second year in a row will still have them off balance for us to take advantage of.
RSL closed the 2017 season by going 9-4-5, a serious upward trend that had RSL leading the Western Conference in points per game during that stretch. Most analysts are expecting this trend to continue, and I do as well. I am seriously excited for 2018, and I expect our team to continue to play entertaining, enjoyable soccer that we really started to see toward the end of 2017.
RSL plays 17 MLS home games this year for 51 total possible home points. Based upon the above observations, I expect RSL to accumulate at least 35-40 points at home this year, representing approx. 70 to 80 percent of the available home points. In MLS, that would definitely be considered a successful home year and would mark the return of the RioT as RSL’s fortress. It should also see RSL well on their way to a playoff berth this year, something I’m sure we are all hoping for and looking forward to.