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Projecting RSL’s lineup against New England

Expect a slew of absences.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still a week away, but Real Salt Lake’s match against Portland is going to feature some fairly substantial changes to the lineup.

It’s inevitable at this point, with Kyle Beckerman and Sunny both receiving yellow card accumulation suspensions. We might also see a few international absences, too, in Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino and Shawn Barry.

Replacing Kyle Beckerman, Sunny

There are a few options here, so let’s chat about them.

First, we could move Damir Kreilach into a DM spot, but the question remains about who else would play in the midfield with him. Pablo Ruiz hasn’t been making the bench after a couple very poor performances and Luke Mulholland is on the bench but hasn’t played a single minute.

That’s why I think we’re likely to see Nick Besler move into the midfield. He’s a natural defensive midfielder and would be a reasonable, if unspectacular, replacement. That would mean a chance to finally see Nedum Onuoha at center back, though part of me thinks RSL coach Mike Petke could drop Shawn Barry in the mix instead. His lineups simply haven’t been predictable.

It also remains possible that we’ll see Marcelo Silva, who has been in and out of lineups. Rumors have been swirling that he’s refusing to play or something, and I certainly don’t know if that’s true, but it is true that he’s been “injured” quite a lot this season.

Predicted midfield: Kreilach, Besler

Replacing our attacking trio

So this hurts a bit. We might be without basically our whole attacking line, and that’s a painful thing to consider. Now, the club has said that at least some of these players might be available, but let’s take a look at the matches on deck:

  • Jefferson Savarino, Venezuela, both matches in Spain: Oct. 12 vs. Basque Country, Oct. 16 vs. United Arab Emirates
  • Albert Rusnak, Slovakia: Oct. 13 vs. Czech Republic, Oct. 16 vs. Sweden
  • Joao Plata, both matches in Qatar: Oct. 12 vs. Qatar, Oct. 16 vs. Oman

So, clearly there is some technical possibility that they could play — or at least could be back in Salt Lake City by Oct. 18 — but all three of those players are coming from either Eastern Europe, in the case of Rusnak and Savarino, or the Middle East, in the case of Plata.

(I know this is tangential, but playing friendlies in Europe is little more than a money grab in my eyes, and I just can’t stomach it.)

So how do we replace these players? Let’s see who we have available in the attack:

  • Corey Baird
  • Brooks Lennon
  • Pablo Ruiz
  • Sebastian Saucedo
  • Luis Silva

I’ve included Brooks Lennon here, as we could see him move up from the back — it almost seems necessary. We do have both Adam Henley available on the right, or we could move Aaron Herrera to the right side and play Danilo Acosta. Normally, I’d say we could see Shawn Barry back there, but he’ll be absent through international duty, too.

Now, could those players play? Sure. But we have a match three days later, and as much as I sometimes wonder about Mike Petke,

Predicting the whole lineup

From right to left:

Rimando (or Putna)
Herrera, Onuoha, Glad, Acosta
Besler, Kreilach
Lennon, L. Silva, Saucedo

I don’t love it, but it’s workable, and it might be a team that can win. But that attack isn’t inspiring, and I don’t even know that it’s likely. Our bench would likely include those three attackers.

After all, Mike Petke loves to throw a curveball at us — so really, who knows?