After a pair of big wins at home against the top two teams in the West, Real Salt Lake heads out on the road to face off against Minnesota United FC, in hopes of improving their record away from home this season.
These teams have only met twice in MLS regular season play, and they were both last year in Minnesota’s inaugural season. The results were split, the first game ending in a 4-2 victory for MNUFC, while the second match was a 1-0 win for RSL at home.
The two sides also met once in US Open Cup play, back in 2012 when they were still branded as the Minnesota Stars in the NASL, the country’s only second-tier division at the time. The roster included goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel, who later signed with RSL for the 2017 season and made seven appearances before being transferred to the Oklahoma City Energy this past offseason. Minnesota came out victorious with a 3-1 scoreline, knocking RSL out of the US Open Cup in third round play.
Real Salt Lake
Record: 9-8-2 (29 points)
Table: 4th place (west), 8th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.53 (9th in MLS)
Most goals: Corey Baird (5), Albert Rusnak (5), Luis Silva (5)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (6)
Clean sheets: 5
Giant killers at home, strugglers on the road
After knocking off two Western Conference leaders in a row at home with a 4-2 win over Sporting Kansas City followed by a 2-0 shutout of FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake now looks to Minnesota United FC as they head out to extend their winning streak to three while also hoping to grab only their second win of the season away from home.
Their lone road win came in the form of a 1-0 victory over Seattle at CenturyLink Field back in May, which is good for a 1W-7L-1D record overall away from home on the year.
In the middle of a stretch that sees them play five of seven games at home, now is as good of a time as any to turn their fortune around on the road, as Minnesota has been anything but spectacular this season. That’s not to say it’s a guaranteed win — RSL has a storied history of losing games to teams they’re expected to beat, so that combined with a dismal road record this season should make for some energized play, looking for the full three points.
Lose a defender, gain a goalkeeper
Announced this morning, RSL signed Real Monarchs goalkeeper Andrew Putna after an injury to Connor Sparrow found them with only one fit ‘keeper on the roster, as Alex Horwath has been out with a long-term injury since May.
RSL moved David Horst to the season-ending injury list after his Achilles surgery just a couple weeks ago, that will see him out for six-to-nine months, effectively ending his season anyway.
Putna isn’t likely to see any minutes on the first team anytime soon, but of course it’s imperative that they have a backup goalkeeper in the event that Rimando comes up with an injury.
With three players now sharing the spoils as the team’s leading scorers — Corey Baird, Albert Rusnak, and Luis Silva all have five goals — it’s clear that there’s not only one player standing out in the front four. Nipping at their heels with three goals each are Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino, and Joao Plata, who have all found themselves in excellent form lately.
Minnesota United FC
Record: 6-11-1 (19 points)
Table: 9th place (west), 17th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.06 (T-17th in MLS)
Most goals: Darwin Quintero (6)
Most assists: Miguel Ibarra (3)
Clean sheets: 2
Minneosta’s sophomore season in MLS has been a turbulent one, with more downs than ups as they try to fine tune their roster and compete with the rest of the league. Fresh off a four-game losing streak, they snapped their bad run with a 4-3 win at home over Toronto FC last week, thanks to a hat trick from leading scorer Darwin Quintero and another goal from Miguel Ibarra.
That was Minnesota’s first win since their May 26th 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact.
Injuries in high places
They’ve had to play the majority of the season without arguably their best player Kevin Molino, who suffered a torn ACL on March 10th during only his second game of the season. Through 140 minutes played in the first two games of the year, Molino was off to a fantastic start notching two goals and one assist.
The ACL injury was classified as season-ending, and Molino’s year was over almost before it had started.
This wasn’t Minnesota’s only season-ending ACL injury, as Ethan Finlay suffered the same fate just over a month later in a 3-1 loss to Seattle on April 22nd. His torn ACL was also a season-ender and isn’t expected to return to the field in 2018. Finlay tallied two goals in seven games before he was forced off the pitch.
Minnesota wasted no time once the summer transfer window opened, making two signings in the form of winger Romario Ibarra, and striker Angelo Rodriguez.
Ibarra is an Ecuadorian international who was signed on July 9th from Universidad Catolica of the Chilean Primera Division where he scored 14 goals through 134 appearances. Minnesota used Targeted Allocation Money to sign the winger, who is expected to bring plenty of skill and pace to the Loons’ struggling attack.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, joins as the team’s second Designated Player. The 29-year-old Colombian comes from Deportes Tolima, where he spent over two seasons and notched 28 goals in 64 games.
Both signings bode well for Minnesota as they will bring some much-needed freshness to their attack.
So what about the defense?
While they’ve made offensive improvements, the Loons continue to struggle on defense. In 2017, they conceded 70 goals, setting the record for most-ever goals allowed in a season in MLS play. Currently, they’ve allowed the fifth-most goals in the league, with 36 goals against through only 18 games played, working out to an average of two goals conceded per game.
With only two clean sheets to their name this season, they’ve got to figure something out defensive-wise in the coming months if they want to contend for a playoff position. Otherwise, maybe head coach Adrian Heath’s plan is to bolster the attack like they’ve done and hope that they can simply outscore their opponents without focusing on clean sheets.
Either way, Minnesota has some work to do if they want to climb the standings in the last half of the season.
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), Shawn Barry (knee), Demar Phillips (ankle), David Horst (torn achilles; out for season), Luke Mulholland (back), Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee), Connor Sparrow (knee)
Minnesota United FC
OUT: Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn ACL; out for season), Ethan Finlay (torn ACL), Abu Danladi (leg), Jerome Thiesson (leg)
QUESTIONABLE: Marc Burch (knee)
RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Acosta; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Saucedo; Baird
MIN: Shuttleworth; Boxall, Kallman, Calvo; M Ibarra, Ibson, Warner, Schuller, Gomez; Ramirez, Quintero
When: Saturday, July 14, 6:00PM MT
Where: TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, MN
Weather: 87 degrees, clear
Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)
Referee: Alan Kelly