After logging their first road win of the season with a 1-0 victory in Seattle last week, Real Salt Lake returns back to Utah this week for a pair of home games, starting first with the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Houston holds a commanding edge in the all-time series, with a 12W-8L-6D record against RSL in MLS play. Last season wasn’t a great one for RSL against Texas sides, as their Texas Road Trip last year saw them losing 5-1 in Houston followed immediately by a 6-2 loss in Dallas. However, RSL somewhat redeemed themselves when Houston travelled to Utah in August, holding them off for a 0-0 draw.
Real Salt Lake
Record: 5-6-1 (16 points)
Table: 9th place (west), 15th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.33 (T-12th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (3), Albert Rusnak (3), Corey Baird (3)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (3)
Clean sheets: 3
Youngsters’ time to shine
With Danilo Acosta making only his third appearance last week in Seattle — and his first since mid-April — it was obvious that he was one of the best players on the field. Bofo Saucedo also saw his first career goal in MLS as he got the start over the injured Joao Plata. Saucedo scored the game’s lone goal to give RSL their first and only road win on the season thus far, and what a goal it was!
Corey Baird also got his seventh start of the season through 10 appearances, having become Mike Petke’s clear choice in the center forward position over Luis Silva.
RSL will have to get through the next two games without Albert Rusnak while he’s away on international duty with Slovakia for a pair of international friendlies. It’s hard to say who will get the start in his place while he’s gone, since he hasn’t missed a game yet all season, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luis Silva get the nod at the number 10 spot since that was his preferred position before he came to Salt Lake.
Defense, defense, defense
Is RSL’s defense finally going to figure it out and keep it together? Logging just their third clean sheet of the year, they looked to be a more cohesive unit, holding Seattle to just three shots on frame last weekend. With the return of Marcelo Silva adding a big presence to the void that he left, and Danny Acosta making his triumphant comeback to the lineup, it looks as though this might be the preferred group going forward. Acosta played like his life depended on it, and he’s going to make it extremely tough for Petke not to start him in future games.
With Brooks Lennon still hanging around at right back while Tony Beltran is out with injury, it’s great that he’s getting so much playing time but hard to picture him staying in that spot for the rest of the season, especially when he’s a natural forward and Petke has other options in that position like Adam Henley and Shawn Barry, who is currently out with an injury.
Dominance at home
RSL has won nine of their last 10 games at home, the only loss coming in the form of a 5-1 blowout to newcomers LAFC in the season home opener. Riding a streak like that, the odds seem to be in RSL’s favor, as five of their next seven games will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Locking down another clean sheet at home this week against Houston would be just what the doctor ordered, giving fans hope that RSL can turn this season around after all.
Record: 5-3-3 (18 points)
Table: 5th place (west), 10th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.64 (9th in MLS)
Most goals: Alberth Elis (7)
Most assists: Romell Quioto (5)
Clean sheets: 1
The attack is real
Houston has a monster attack that seems to be completely underrated by many. With dangerous players up top like Alberth Elis — who has a team-high seven goals this season — and Romell Quioto (five assists), they find themselves in a tie for most goals scored in the league with 26 overall.
On the flip side, they’ve conceded 18 goals, and have only managed to secure one clean sheet — a 4-0 win over Atlanta in their very first game of the season. The defense hasn’t been able to keep a clean sheet since then, which RSL will no doubt look to take advantage of.
Houston is currently riding a four-game unbeaten streak which includes three wins and a draw. Two of the three wins came at home, with the Dynamo squeaking out a 3-2 win over the Fire in Chicago a couple of weeks ago.
However, that win in Chicago is their lone road win all season. They’ve managed to grind out three road draws and suffered one loss, and with RSL’s great home record so far this year, they’ve got quite a challenge ahead of them as they travel to Utah.
So while their attack can be quite dangerous, RSL has the opportunity to take advantage of some of Houston’s weaknesses, and they’ll be looking to do just that as they hope to string together two wins in a row for the first time this season.
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), Shawn Barry (knee), Demar Phillips (ankle), Albert Rusnak (int’l duty)
QUESTIONABLE: Joao Plata (quad)
OUT: AJ DeLaGarza (torn ACL), Philippe Senderos (hamstring), George Malki (knee), Dylan Remick (concussion), Kevin Garcia (hamstring), Jared Watts (hamstring), Darwin Ceren (leg), Adolfo Machado (int’l duty)
RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Acosta; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, L Silva, Saucedo; Baird
HOU: Willis; Wenger, Fuenmayor, Leonardo, Beasley; Boniek Garcia, Alexander; Elis, Martinez, Quioto; Manotas
When: Wednesday, May 30, 7:30PM MT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT
Weather: 79 degrees, partly cloudy
Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)
Referee: Dave Gantar