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Tactical Preview: RSL vs. Philadelphia Union

Can RSL start their first winning streak of the season on the road against Philadelphia?

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, RSL takes on the Philadelphia Union in their one and only meeting of this season. RSL’s offense has been looking good the last few weeks, and Philadelphia’s defense has been known to ship a few goals from time to time. What can we look forward to from this matchup? Let’s jump in and take a look!

Real Salt Lake

Last week, RSL really started off on the back foot by allowing an early goal. But they quickly got back into the game and found an equalizer, and shortly after went up a man and were able to score two more goals that ultimately put the game out of reach for DC. The attack is still looking good, and really gelling. The defense, on the other hand... still needs work. Through 10 games, the Claret and Cobalt have now conceded 21 goals. To be fair, it is a fact that 12 of those 21 goals came in just three games against LAFC, Toronto, and NYCFC, which means that they have allowed 9 goals in the other 7 games. Still not fantastic, but a better statistic to look at when we say the team might not be in such terrible shape.

The biggest struggle defensively continues to be the fullback positions. Each of the goals that DC United scored last week can be attributed to mistakes from the outside backs. These defensive lapses are going to have to stop if RSL wants to have any hopes of making the playoffs this season.

Offensively, how great was it to see Corey Baird make a hard run straight up the gut and score an excellent headed goal? The service from Joao Plata was spot on, and Baird’s header placed the ball exactly where it needed to go to get it past the goalkeeper. Baird is now tied for the team lead in goals scored, and I believe that he has made that #9 position his to lose for the time being. Luis Silva always connected well with the other attacking players, but usually left something wanting in the finishing department. As you watch Baird play, you can see that he is still a little rough around the edges and is still adjusting to the level of play in MLS, but he is learning quickly. I look forward to continuing to watch him grow and develop into a quality player in the league.

Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union currently stand in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, with 11 points from 10 games played. They have scored 8 goals this season and allowed 14 goals. Their 8 goals scored is second lowest in the league behind only the Seattle Sounders, who have scored 7 goals in 8 matches played. The Union play in a 4-2-3-1 formation with USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya anchoring the defensive midfield, and a young back line in front of Jamaican International keeper Andre Blake.

Despite some of the struggles they have had, Philadelphia play good soccer. On the season, they are averaging 52.4% possession and a 81.6% passing completion rate. Both of those numbers are higher than RSL’s season averages.

The good news for Real Salt Lake is that Philadephia’s leading goalscorer, CJ Sapong is out this week with an injury. No other player on their roster has scored more than one goal on the season. This should give RSL a good opportunity to try and get a shutout on the road.

Expected Lineup

GK: Rimando

DEF: Lennon, Glad, Besler, Ruiz

MF: Beckerman, Kreilach

MF: Savarino, Rusnak, Plata

ST: Baird

RSL’s keys to the match

  1. Focus defensively and limit mistakes from the outside backs. If we can get a complete game from both of our fullbacks, there’s no reason why they cannot pitch a shutout on the road and earn the full three points.
  2. Continue to grow the attack. Each week, we have seen the attack grow and become a little more cohesive. Every RSL fan should be watching and hoping that growth continues, because it is going to be the key to success for the entire season.