Real Salt Lake kicks off their first home game of the season against the new kids on the block, Los Angeles FC. Taking it step by step, Bob Bradley and his squad will look to come in and build on the 1-0 win they put together against Seattle last week.
What we know after one week
With only one meaningful game under their belt, there’s not a whole lot of tactical information to pull from LAFC quite yet. What we do know is that they’ve got more than a couple of guys who know how to score goals, and we saw a glimpse of what they can do in a moment of brilliance last week when they snagged the lone goal at CenturyLink Field, becoming the first expansion team since 2011 to win their first-ever MLS game.
With Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela already looking dangerous in the attack as Rossi’s week one strike won Goal of the Week, they’ll be looking to pick apart defenses and cause more trouble as the season goes on. They have plenty to work on after piecing together a win against a less-than-stellar Seattle lineup, showing some defensive lapses that could have easily ended up in goals.
After a semi-disappointing draw for RSL on the road against Dallas last week, Mike Petke and the boys will hope to shore up the defense this weekend, as a momentary defensive lapse caused a late own goal to drop two points in Frisco.
In an impressive MLS debut, newly acquired midfielder Damir Kreilach really proved that he can fit into the system here, as he was solid for the majority of the game up and down the field, before he was subbed off in the 78th minute to make way for Sunny. With a limited preseason under his belt, Kreilach found himself with some great play on both sides of the ball, and one can expect he’ll only get better as he spends more time on and off the field with the players around him.
Building a fortress
RSL is currently riding an eight-game unbeaten streak at home, stretching all the way back to July 22, 2017 when they were just beginning their hot streak that would see them crawl their way up the table, only to miss the playoffs by one point. During that eight-game home unbeaten run, they outscored their opponents 17-6 overall, including two back-to-back four-goal wins — 4-0 over the San Jose Earthquakes, and 4-1 over the Colorado Rapids.
Given that Petke has only improved the roster since last season, and seeing how effortlessly Rusnak and Plata combined for the opening goal in Dallas last week, there’s no reason to think that the quality will drop off at home against LAFC on Saturday. Ideally, they’ll pick up right where they left off last season — one of the hottest teams in MLS.
Personnel and key players
Vela and Rossi both headline the roster as the club’s two Designated Players, but there is a wealth of talent with plenty of MLS experience on the squad as well, including names like Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour, Benny Feilhaber, Laurent Ciman, and Latif Blessing to name a few. LAFC cleaned up in the expansion draft and made some great moves in the offseason, and their roster shows they have all the makings of being a great team in 2018 if Bradley can mold them the right way.
RSL, fresh off waiving Designated Player Yura Movsisyan earlier this week, will hope to focus the team around young playmaker Albert Rusnak this season, who finished his debut MLS year with 14 assists and seven goals, proving that he acclimated to MLS play relatively quickly. With one assist under his belt already, expect him to take the reins and create even more solid attacking play going forward.
With Tony Beltran still out and Adam Henley listed as questionable, we can expect Shawn Barry to get the start at right back again after a solid first outing. Both Jefferson Savarino and Demar Phillips came out of the game in Dallas last week, but fortunately it was only due to cramping and no injury has been reported for either player.
RSL: Rimando; Henley, M Silva, Glad, Phillips; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L Silva
LAFC: Miller; Beitashour, Jakovic, Ciman, Moutinho; Feilhaber, Kaye; Blessing, Vela, Rossi; Ureña
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Adam Henley (hamstring)
OUT: Luis Lopez (tibial stress fracture)
QUESTIONABLE: Callum Mallace (MCL sprain)
When: Saturday, March 10, 1:30PM MT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT
Weather: Partly cloudy, 53 degrees
Broadcast: KMYU, KSLTV, ESPN 700, MLS Live
Referee: Baldomero Toledo