After taking down second-place Vancouver last week with a 2-1 win, Real Salt Lake heads east to take on David Villa and the rest of the New York City FC squad in their first and only match-up of the regular season.
NYCFC (4-0-1, 13 points), one of only two unbeaten teams left in MLS, sits atop the Eastern Conference just one point ahead of Atlanta United. They’ve found themselves in the midst of a dream start to the season, outscoring their opponents 10-4, with two of those goals allowed coming in their only draw, a 2-2 finish against the New England Revolution.
NYC is the only team in the league to play two games this week, heading on the road to take on Atlanta United on Sunday. Player rotation could easily come into play for the midweek game against RSL, if coach Patrick Vieira wants to see more of his guys well-rested for the clash in ATL.
Real Salt Lake (2-2-1, 7 points) will look to keep the momentum going from their win over the Whitecaps last week, including goals from both Luis Silva and Jefferson Savarino. The highlight of that match was undoubtedly youngster Corey Baird’s impressive assist on Savarino’s goal, which ended up being the game winner.
Baird got his first start of the season last week and played the full 90 minutes, showing that he can certainly bring a spark and some new creativity to RSL’s attack as Mike Petke chose to bench Joao Plata that game. It’ll be interesting to see if Petke decides to keep going the same direction with Baird in the starting lineup, or if Plata has made his case in training and will crack his way back into the eleven this week.
Surprise! NYCFC has never won a game against RSL. Salt Lake has won all three contests dating back to 2015, with scores of 2-0, 3-2, and 2-1. Two of those games have been in the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium, with the one lone road win coming in dramatic fashion in 2016.
The last match-up between the two came on May 17th of last year, when NYC took an early lead with a goal in the fourth minute from Sean Okoli. RSL fought back from behind and dropped two goals on the visitors courtesy of Albert Rusnak in the 38th and Aaron Maund in the 51st, to give the home side a 2-1 victory.
Key players and personnel
The obvious name that comes to mind from NYC’s roster is the legendary David Villa. However, he’s been out with a calf injury and has missed the last three games. While he was originally slated to start in NYC’s last outing against San Jose, he was a last-minute scratch after he claimed to have “felt something” during warmups — something the team claimed was very minor, but enough to keep him out of the game. It remains to be seen whether he’ll make the start against RSL, or if Vieira will hold him out of the starting eleven again as a precaution.
Forward Ismael Tajouri has been starting in Villa’s place, scoring three goals in his absence, including a brace in NYC’s 2-2 draw with New England a couple weeks back. With players like Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina providing quality service, it’s no wonder NYC has scored two goals in every game this year so far.
They’ve been impressive on the defensive side as well, with names like Anton Tinnerholm, Ben Sweat, and Maxime Chanot keeping their goals allowed number to only four, tied for the least conceded in the league.
On the RSL side, it looks like the attack is opening up, with the club’s last three goals scored by three different players. Plata still leads the way with two goals, but Rusnak, Baird, Savarino, and Silva each have one goal apiece.
RSL suffered a couple of defensive injuries last week against Vancouver, when both Demar Phillips and Marcelo Silva had to be subbed out in the first half following their respective injuries, making way for Adam Henley on the left and David Horst in the center. Interestingly enough, it’s worth noting that Danilo Acosta, who started in the Monarchs game that same night, was subbed out after only 11 minutes for no apparent reason, which coincided with RSL’s defensive injuries in their game. Is that a sign that Petke is planning on giving Acosta his first start of the season if Phillips isn’t able to play?
Both Phillips and Marcelo Silva are listed on the official injury report, but there hasn’t been much news regarding their status ahead of the game tomorrow. It’s probably safe to assume we won’t see either in the starting lineup.
Regardless, the RSL backline has a tough task at hand as they will need to shut down NYC’s attack on their own turf, whether Villa is in the lineup or not. NYC has proven they can score without him, and Real Salt Lake will look to put a stop to that.
RSL: Rimando; Lennon, Horst, Glad, Acosta; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, Rusnak, Baird; L Silva
NYC: Johnson; Tinnerholm, Chanot, Callens, Sweat; Ofori; Medina, Moralez, Herrera, Wallace; Tajouri
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Taylor Peay (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Marcelo Silva (undisclosed), Shawn Barry (hamstring), Luke Mulholland (hamstring), Demar Phillips (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: Aaron Herrera (groin)
OUT: Kwame Awuah (knee)
GOALS: Joao Plata (2)
ASSISTS: Albert Rusnak, Brooks Lennon, Corey Baird, Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino (1)
GOALS: Ismael Tajouri, Maximiliano Moralez (3)
ASSISTS: Jesus Medina (3)
When: Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 5:00pm MT
Where: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
Weather: Partly cloudy, 51 degrees
Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV App, MLS Live (free)
Radio: ESPN 700
Referee: Mark Geiger