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Match preview: San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake

RSL heads out on the road to take on the league’s worst team in San Jose, in hopes of picking up a second win away from home this season.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing loss in Minnesota followed by a draw at home against Colorado, Real Salt Lake heads back out on the road to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in hopes of grabbing only their second win away from home this season.

The all-time series is dead even between the two teams, with each side winning 10 games while battling out to 10 more draws, although RSL has outscored the ‘Quakes 44-38 overall throughout the years.

The last time they met was on June 23rd when San Jose visited Rio Tinto Stadium and squeaked out a 1-1 draw, thanks to a 64th-minute goal from Danny Hoesen to respond to Damir Kreilach’s 54th-minute scoring opener. RSL nearly secured the victory in the final minute of play when Marcelo Silva got his head to a ball off a corner kick, but it bounced off the crossbar and went out of play.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 9-9-3 (29 points)
Table: 5th place (west), 9th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.43 (T-9th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (6)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (6)
Clean sheets: 5
Form: LWWLD

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Just get a win

This is it. If there ever was a chance to start winning on the road, now is the time. If they can’t do it against the worst team in the league, they can’t do it against anybody, right? While San Jose is winless in their last 11 games, it should be a guaranteed sure thing to extend their streak to 12.

As any RSL fan knows, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s the lower-ranked teams that they seem to struggle against. Sure, they can take down Western Conference giants Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, but when it comes to lower teams like Colorado or Minnesota, they can’t seem to get it done.

Hopefully, coach Freddy Juarez won’t let the team get too overconfident ahead of Saturday’s match.

Still no Petke

Oh yeah, Mike Petke will still be out for this game as I’m sure we all remember. This will be game number two of his two-game suspension, so he’ll be back on the sidelines for the August 4th game against the Chicago Fire at home.

Not to say that RSL completely dropped the ball without him last week against Colorado. They really came out in the first 23 minutes and handed it to the Rapids, knocking down two goals with ease in what looked like would end up being a 5-0 rout. Unfortunately, after the hour-long weather delay, the Rapids came out looking recharged and reenergized, and were able to fight back and earn their second goal and equalizer with just two minutes to go.

Keeping Rusnak happy

With reports surfacing this week about Real Salt Lake offering Albert Rusnak a new and improved contract, it would seem that the transfer rumor saga will be put to rest shortly. After offloading Alfredo Ortuno, RSL presumably now has the money to put toward a Rusnak contract, the likes of which they’ve been discussing all season.

Even though Rusnak previously expressed a bit of unhappiness earlier in the season while hinting at a short-term European move, he promised it wouldn’t affect his play on the field, and honestly it doesn’t seem like it really has. Notching five goals and five assists, he’s still been the man pulling the strings for the attack. One has to wonder, though, once he gets a new contract nailed down that he’s happy with, will that affect his game enough to let him really let loose on the field? Only time will tell.

Plata rumors

Now that the Rusnak rumors have died down, it’s time for more silly season talk as Joao Plata is apparently the target of several MLS teams who are interested in signing the 26-year-old winger.

It’s impossible to tell at this point what’s true and what’s not, but it’s clear that Plata has been forced to fight for his position, playing a total of only 140 minutes over the last six matches (an available 540 minutes), as Sebastian Saucedo has locked down the starting spot in the majority of recent games at the left winger position.

Either way, the story should unfold over the next few weeks as the secondary transfer window closes on August 8th.

San Jose Earthquakes

Record: 2-12-6 (12 points)
Table: 12th place (west), 23rd place (overall)
Points per game: 0.60 (23rd in MLS)
Most goals: Danny Hoesen (10)
Most assists: Danny Hoesen (4)
Clean sheets: 0
Form: DDLLL

MLS: Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Great players, terrible team

Let’s not kid ourselves; San Jose has plenty of great players on their team. Led by midfielder Danny Hoesen with 10 goals and four assists, their roster boasts the likes of Vako, Florian Jungwirth, Chris Wondolowski, Anibal Godoy, Magnus Eriksson, and more. All great players in their own right. But for whatever reason this season, they just can’t get it together.

With only two wins to their name, and not managing to keep a single clean sheet all year, their defense has been unable to keep the ball out of the back of the net in every single game. They’ve allowed 40 goals, good for second-worst in the Western Conference in that particular stat.

They’re currently sitting in dead last place, both in the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Currently riding an 11-game winless streak, their last win came in May when they secured a 3-1 road win over Minnesota United. In fact, their only two wins all season have been against Minnesota, the first coming in a 3-2 victory at home in the season opener. The ‘Quakes have failed to beat any other team in the league.

Their 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders last week was their third in a row, after having fallen 2-1 to the Portland Timbers and 2-0 to the Montreal Impact previously.

New signing brings hope

The Earthquakes recently signed midfielder Luis Felipe who made his debut against Seattle last week and showed some promise for San Jose. Spending the previous two seasons in the lower divisions, the Earthquakes hope that the young midfielder will bring speed and depth to their lineup.

He went the full 90 minutes in his first game last week, so it’s expected that coach Mikael Stahre will put him in the lineup for the RSL match as well.


Absences

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), Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee), Connor Sparrow (knee)

San Jose Earthquakes
OUT: Kevin Partida (ACL surgery), Fatai Alashe (groin)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Acosta; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Baird

SJ: Tarbell; Lima, Ockford, Cummings, Salinas; Vako, Jungwirth, Godoy, Hyka; Hoesen, Wondolowski

Match info

When: Saturday, July 28, 8:30PM MT

Where: Avaya Stadium — San Jose, CA

Weather: 74 degrees, clear

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

Referee: Marcos DeOliveira