Just one week after Damir Kreilach scored a brace against the Chicago Fire to lift the home side to a 2-1 victory, Real Salt Lake will look to extend their home unbeaten streak to 12 as the Montreal Impact come to town in search of vital points ahead of the playoff push.
Though the two sides have only played each other six times since Montreal joined MLS in 2012, the Impact have a slight edge with three wins and two losses, while they’ve only ended in a draw once. It’s worth noting that the visiting team has never won, and the draw came the last time they played at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2016.
The last time they met was in August of 2017, when Montreal handily defeated the visitors with a score of 3-1, thanks to a brace from midfielder Ignacio Piatti, follwed by a third goal early in the second half from Anthony Jackson-Hamel. Luis Silva scored RSL’s lone goal that night.
Real Salt Lake
Record: 10-9-4 (34 points)
Table: 6th place (west), 10th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.48 (10th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (6), Damir Kreilach (6)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (6), Jefferson Savarino (6), Albert Rusnak (6)
Clean sheets: 6
No shortage of goal scorers
Real Salt Lake may not have any individual player in the double digits when it comes to goals, but what they do have is five players all with five goals or more a piece. While Joao Plata and Damir Kreilach lead the pack with six each, Albert Rusnak, Corey Baird, and Luis Silva all have five goals each. Of course, they’re the only team in MLS to have that many players with that many goals.
It’s a similar situation when it comes to assists, with Kreilach, Savarino, and Rusnak notching six a piece, while both Plata and Brooks Lennon have four.
Transfer deadline came and went
There were plenty of transfer rumors going around in regards to RSL — most notably Joao Plata’s imminent departure. There were reports of RSL chasing other MLS players, including Fanendo Adi, Christian Ramirez, and Bacary Sagna. Obviously, none of these rumors came to fruition, and RSL ended up not making any moves during the secondary transfer window.
Whether the fanbase sees it as a good or a bad thing, RSL’s roster is staying put for the time being. With how potent the attack can really be at times, though, that may not be a bad thing.
Is Rio Tinto Stadium a fortress again?
Everyone remembers when RSL went an unbelievable 29 games unbeaten at home in MLS regular season play. They were unstoppable, and Rio Tinto Stadium quickly became the hardest and most dreaded place for other MLS teams to play. That run started in June of 2009 and ended in May of 2011 when the Seattle Sounders came in and were finally able to get a victory in Sandy. Not unrelated, the streak ended only three matches after the horrific Javier Morales ankle injury against Chivas USA.
Since that time, their longest unbeaten run was another impressive 14 games that stretched from March 2016 until September the same year.
RSL has been absolutely dominant at home this season, sitting at 11 consecutive unbeaten matches so far. Of those 11, nine have been wins and only two have been draws.
They’ve reached 12 unbeaten twice before — in 2008, and 2014-2015. They’re on the verge of adding a third time to that number with a win or a draw against Montreal this weekend.
Record: 9-13-2 (29 points)
Table: 5th place (east), 12th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.21 (17th in MLS)
Most goals: Ignacio Piatti (11)
Most assists: Ignacio Piatti (9)
Clean sheets: 7
While RSL stayed quiet, Montreal made some significant signings during the secondary transfer window that, on paper, should help their game on the field leading up to the playoff push.
Bacary Sagna might be the most notable of those signings. After rumors that RSL were chasing after him as well as Atlanta, the 35-year-old former Manchester City and Arsenal right back landed in Montreal for the remainder of the 2018 season.
In addition, the Impact also picked up midfielder Michael Azira from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 SuperDraft, as well as shipping off speedy attacker Dominic Oduro to San Jose while receiving forward Quincy Amarikwa in return.
Nacho in the spotlight
It’s no secret that Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti is Montreal’s deadliest and most effective player. With 11 goals and nine assists this season alone, he is the glue that holds the team together from the midfield and has kept them in the playoff picture.
Nacho has amassed an impressive 58 goals and 30 assists over the last five years with Montreal, doing so in only 114 appearances for the Impact.
In need of a win
The Impact are in the midst of a three-game winless skid, drawing against Portland three weeks ago, followed by a loss to Atlanta, and then coming out with a 1-1 draw against DC United last week. They’re sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference — still in the playoff picture at this point. But the race in the East is so tight, only six points separate them from 10th place, which is currently the Chicago Fire with 23 points.
As we head into the crucial final third of the season, Montreal will be looking for every point possible to keep themselves just above that red line.
Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), David Horst (torn achilles; out for season), Luke Mulholland (back), Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee), Connor Sparrow (knee), Luis Silva (groin)
OUT: David Choiniere (ankle), Chris Duvall (calf)
RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Herrera; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Baird
MTL: Bush; Petrasso, Fanni, Camacho, Raitala; Krolicki, Piette, Taider; Silva, Mancosu, Piatti
When: Saturday, August 11, 8:00PM MT
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT
Weather: 94 degrees, clear
Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)
Referee: Chris Penso