Real Salt Lake finished the regular season in the sixth and final spot in the west. That berth gave them a game in LA against a team who have beaten them twice. It’s not going to be an easy task for RSL to overcome past demons and beat the black and gold, but if they want to advance, this is what they’ll have to do.
RSL was the only team that did not play on decision day, so they have an extra week of rest over LAFC. This could be the edge Real need to break down their opponent. RSL was very hard done by when they had to play their final two games of the regular season within four days. Now, the scheduling may work to their advantage. LAFC just lost to Sporting Kansas City (and drew with Vancouver the week before), so they’re on short rest and haven’t been in the greatest form. RSL’s form has been pretty poor, taking five points in their last six games (in that time, LAFC took ten points). LAFC’s defense is on the slow side, so if guys like Plata, Savarino, and especially Baird can blaze past Zimmerman and Silva, RSL has a decent shot at goals.
Selection and substitutions
The injury list is the shortest we’ve seen it this year (perhaps shorter than we ever saw it last year as well). Allen and Beltran are both listed as questionable after year plus injuries. We won’t see either in the lineup, but it’s good that head coach Mike Petke has as many options available to him as possible. We’ll likely see the same lineup that started against Portland, with the possible exception of center back. I think Nedum gets the nod over Marcelo in that spot. A similar lineup to the go-to for most of this year could work against LAFC, but it seems unlikely. Real need some kind of spark if they’re going to defeat a team that’s had their number all season long.
That spark may come in the form of substitutions. This site has written about the concerning substitution patterns we’ve witnessed throughout this season. A gross oversimplification is that we need to be making subs earlier and using at least two, if not all three, subs. It would be great to see Baird and Bofo come on fairly early in the second half and run the defense into the ground. The biggest question of me is if the coach will try new things to get a win, or will it be more of the same?
Most RSL fans are feeling a sense of emotional whiplash from watching this team absolutely dominate (LAG, Rapids), to being truly terrible (LAFC, PTFC) this season. The highs have been higher, and the lows lower. It’s bizarre. This is a team, though, that can get it done in impressive style. I don’t know what causes the team to lean one way or another, but if they come out tonight with some swagger and confidence, that could be all the difference. Are they creating? Are they completing passes and trying things? Is the defense organized? Do they look assured and that they know what the plan is?
Horst (achilles 6/26)
Beltran (knee 10/15/17)
Allen (knee 6/16/17)
Horwath (achilles 4/18
Lennon, Glad, Onuoha, Herrera
Savarino, Rusnak, Plata