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Philadelphia vs. RSL preview: RSL looks for first road win of the year

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Winless on the road, Real Salt Lake travels to Pennsylvania to take on a struggling Philadelphia Union.

MLS: D.C. United at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After squeaking out a 3-2 win at home against a 10-man DC United last week, Real Salt Lake heads back out on the road to take on the Philadelphia Union for the first and only time this season.

Through 10 games in MLS play since Philadelphia’s expansion year in 2010, RSL has never lost to the Pennsylvania side, recording four wins and six losses while outscoring the Union 17-11. The last meeting between the two teams was at Rio Tinto Stadium in May of last year, when Joao Plata scored the lone goal in the 36th minute to lift his team to a 1-0 victory over the visitors.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 4-5-1 (13 points)
Table: 6th place (west), 12th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.3 (12th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (3), Albert Rusnak (3), Corey Baird (3)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (3)
Clean sheets: 2

MLS: D.C. United at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Road woes

Regardless of RSL’s unbeaten record against Philly, they’ve also got another problem this season — road games. Through five games outside of the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL has won zero, lost four, and tied one. It’s a polarizing number when compared to their seemingly dominant record at home, which includes four wins, one loss, and no draws.

Not only are they winless on the road this season, but that streak stretches back to last season to make it winless in nine, with seven losses and two draws, while being outscored 21-9 by their opponents.

For whatever reason, RSL can’t seem to figure it out on the road, but they hope to turn that around this weekend in Philadelphia as they make their way to Talen Energy Stadium.

Injury concerns

With an injury list that never seems to stop growing, Mike Petke has had to get creative in the backline, bringing in Pablo Ruiz and Nick Besler for the last few games to fill in on the left and in the middle, respectively. It’s looking like that might be the case again, as Tony Beltran, Demar Phillips, Shawn Barry, and David Horst are all still listed as out on the injury report. We did see Adam Henley make an appearance last week for the first time in three games, as he’s been slowly coming back from injury. It remains to be seen whether he’ll make the starting lineup in Philadelphia or not.

Attack in question

With the emergence of Corey Baird, who’s tied with Rusnak and Plata as the team’s leading scorer with three goals apiece, the center forward position has become more complicated for Petke. Baird is out there playing like his life depends on it, which leaves Luis Silva and Alfredo Ortuño almost nowhere to be seen. Silva has played a combined 22 minutes in the last three games, while Ortuño hasn’t made an appearance since the 4-0 loss in NYC on April 11.

Baird seems to be the man of choice going forward, for now at least, and as long as he keeps playing the way he’s been playing, don’t expect to see anyone else starting in that position anytime soon.

It’s also worth noting that Plata is listed as questionable this week with an undisclosed injury, so we could see someone else starting on the left wing in his place.

Philadelphia Union

Record: 3-5-2 (11 points)
Table: 8th place (east), 16th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.1 (T-14th in MLS)
Most goals: C.J. Sapong (2)
Most assists: Borek Dockal (2)
Clean sheets: 3

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Montreal Impact Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Rough start

Philadelphia have had a less-than-stellar start to the season themselves, notching their first road win of the season last week in Montreal. With only three overall wins under their belt this year, they’re finding themselves out of the playoff picture as we begin to approach midseason.

While looking to string together two consecutive wins, head coach Jim Curtin will likely look to field a similar lineup that took down the Montreal Impact last week. Unfortunately, they’ll have to do it without forward Cory Burke, who notched his first MLS goal in Montreal but was sent off with a red card in the 56th minute.

Key players

It’s no doubt that the attacking force with a lot of potential lies in midfielder Haris Medunjanin and forward CJ Sapong. They both made a mark on Philly’s season last year, and look to have the same potential this year once the Union can get going at full steam. While only winning two out of their last nine MLS games, and with Sapong listed as questionable with a lower body injury, they could be set up to struggle again at home.

They also picked up US Men’s National Team stalwart Alejandro Bedoya midway through 2016 who has made an impact for the Union as well, logging four goals and six assists through 48 games played. We also can’t forget about Andre Blake, the 27-year-old Jamaican international goalkeeper who has managed 20 clean sheets and 253 saves since Philly drafted him in 2014, playing 75 league games in that timespan. Blake is known for standing on his head when he needs to, often keeping his team in the game when their defense looks to be on a different page.

While both teams will look to turn their luck around — RSL hoping to earn their first road win and Philly looking to get their second straight win for the first time this season — it’s sure to be a game where both teams leave it all out on the field.


Absences

Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), David Horst (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), Shawn Barry (knee), Demar Phillips (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Luke Mulholland (back), Joao Plata (undisclosed)

Philadelphia Union
OUT: Joshua Yaro (concussion), Richie Marquez (sports hernia surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: CJ Sapong (lower body injury)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, Besler, Glad, Ruiz; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Saucedo; Baird

PHI: Blake; Rosenberry, Gaddis, Trusty, McKenzie; Medunjanin, Bedoya; Epps, Ilsinho, Dockal; Picault

Match info

When: Saturday, May 19, 5:30PM MT

Where: Talen Energy Stadium — Chester, PA

Weather: 68 degrees, cloudy, 7% chance of rain

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)

Referee: Chico Grajeda