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Match Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Chicago Fire

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RSL plays host to the Chicago Fire this weekend, looking to keep their 10-game unbeaten streak at home alive.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After another disappointing draw with a 0-0 result in San Jose last week, Real Salt Lake returns home for two games before heading out on a three-game road trip. First up, they’ll play host to the Chicago Fire for the first and only time this season.

RSL hopes to continue their 10-game home unbeaten run by securing three points over Chicago, who is currently on a five-game losing streak heading into this weekend.

The last time these sides met was in March of 2017, when Chicago handily defeated RSL by a score of 2-0 at home, thanks to early goals from Nemanja Nikolic and former RSL man Arturo Alvarez.

This time it’s a different story, as RSL has been virtually unbeatable at home over the past year, save for a fluke loss to LAFC at this year’s home opener.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 9-9-4 (21 points)
Table: 6th place (west), 10th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.41 (10th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (6)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (6)
Clean sheets: 6
Form: WWLDD

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The streak continues

Now sitting at 10 games unbeaten at home — only two of those ending in draws — RSL has a home reputation to uphold. They’ve only been able to secure five points on the road, so obviously the bulk of their points this season have come at Rio Tinto Stadium. It’s been something that they’ve been able to rely on, as this year has been somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde situation for the team.

It bodes well that Chicago has had a string of bad results — five losses in a row, to be exact.

Rusnak is back

After a scary moment in San Jose that saw Albert Rusnak being subbed off in the sixth minute with a mysterious neck injury, it looks like he’ll be back in action and ready to go against Chicago.

Turns out it was a neck spasm that limited his movement, Rusnak citing that he couldn’t turn his neck to the left. He ended up having to come off the field because it was just too painful.

Albert has returned to training this week and is confident he’ll be able to play on Saturday.

Petke’s triumphant return

Not only will Rusnak be back on the field, but the RSL boss will be allowed back on the sidelines as well after serving a two-game suspension for his behavior after the Minnesota United game a few weeks back.

Assistant coach Freddy Juarez has been filling in at the helm during the last two matches, but it will certainly be a morale and confidence booster having Petke back calling the shots.

Chicago Fire

Record: 6-12-5 (23 points)
Table: 9th place (east), 19th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.00 (20th in MLS)
Most goals: Nemanja Nikolic (10)
Most assists: Bastian Schweinsteiger (5)
Clean sheets: 2
Form: LLLLL

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Losses on losses

Currently stuck in a five-game losing streak — two of those consecutively coming against Toronto FC — the Chicago Fire are trying to find a way to figure out how to turn their season around. They’ve been struggling all season long, winning only two games on the road while picking up four wins at home.

Much like RSL, they’ve got a slew of players out with injury, including forward Michael de Leeuw, midfielder Dax McCarty, and defender Matt Polster.

Their main man Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, is healthy and has made his presence known on the field, notching a team-high five assists on the season, to complement the 10 goals put in by Nemanja Nikolic and the extra nine goals Aleksandar Katai has contributed.

Lack of defense

Scoring goals hasn’t really been their problem, putting in 34 so far this season, good for the fifth-most goals scored in the Eastern Conference. However, their 46 goals allowed is the second-worst in the league, outdone only Orlando City’s 47.

They’ve had several games where they’ve been able to score multiple goals, but their defense is just leaky enough to let their opponents outscore them.

Hopefully for RSL, they can shut down Chicago’s potent attack and take advantage of their subpar defense by knocking a few into the back of the net early on.


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), Luke Mulholland (back), Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee), Connor Sparrow (knee)

Chicago Fire
OUT: Djordje Mihailovic (ACL), Michael de Leeuw (ACL), Matt Polster (MCL), Patrick McLain (hamstring), Grant Lillard (quad), Dax McCarty (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: Jorge Corrales (facial injury)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Herrera; Sunny, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Baird

CHI: Sanchez; Ellis, Kappelhof, Vincent, Edwards; Bronico, Schweinsteiger, Hasler; Katai, Nikolic, Campos

Match info

When: Saturday, August 4, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 84 degrees, partly cloudy

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

Referee: Kevin Stott