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Match preview: Real Salt Lake vs Minnesota United

RSL looks to continue their scoring ways during the vital playoff push, hoping to extend their winning streak to 4 while remaining unbeaten at home in 14 straight.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake is back in action after taking a week off for the FIFA international break. Riding high after scoring six goals in two consecutive games, RSL will look to build on that momentum as a struggling Minnesota United comes to town in hopes of picking up some vital points as their playoff hopes have all but slipped away.

The two teams have only met three times in Minnesota’s short MLS history, resulting in two wins for the Loons and only one win for RSL, coming in the form of a narrow 1-0 victory in June of 2017. Minnesota’s two wins came from a 4-2 victory in April 2017, followed by the most recent game played between the sides on July 14th, when Minnesota won by a score of 3-2. The home team came out on top in all three meetings.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 13-10-5 (44 points)
Table: 4th place (west), 7th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.57 (10th in MLS)
Most goals: Damir Kreilach (10), Albert Rusnak (10)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (10)
Clean sheets: 7
Form: DLWWW

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Hottest team in MLS

Hands down, RSL can be considered the hottest team in MLS right now. With an active three-game winning streak while outscoring their opponents 14-3, they’ll look to also extend their unbeaten streak at home to an impressive 14 in a row, which would tie their second-best overall unbeaten run at home, last achieved in 2016. RSL’s longest run at home was a staggering 29 games in a row, stretching from June 2009 until May 2011.

With a pair of players in Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak reaching double scoring digits last game — and Joao Plata not far behind with eight — this is clearly the best we’ve seen RSL attack in a long time. We can’t forget about Jefferson Savarino’s impressive 10 assists on the season as he notched two more against the LA Galaxy.

Kreilach is particularly on point, notching his first-ever MLS hat trick against LA, while scoring his fourth goal in just two games as Mike Petke chose to start him at the point of the attack in the #9 position.

Setting records

RSL also became the first team in MLS history to score six goals in two consecutive games with their 6-0 win over Colorado, followed by the 6-2 smashing of the LA Galaxy.

Hopefully, the players can stay grounded instead of getting a little over confident as we’ve seen happen in the past. Minnesota, while not an elite team by any means, isn’t quite a “sure thing” — they’ve beat RSL twice before and they’ll be looking for any opportunity to do it again.

Injuries and cautions

Though RSL’s injury list is relatively long with eight players out of contention, it hasn’t seemed to bother the deep squad much over the last few games as we’ve seen young players like Nick Besler and Aaron Herrera rise to the occasion, making a strong case as to why they should be permanent starters. Besler has stepped up in the absence of Marcelo Silva, but with the signing of former QPR center back Nedum Onuoha looking to be all but official, it will be interesting to see if Onuoha plays backup to Besler right off the bat or if it’ll be the other way around.

Herrera, on the other hand, seems to have won the starting spot at left back outright from Danilo Acosta, who was the go-to guy for a while with Demar Phillips out with a long-term injury. He’s more than earned it, though, showing that he can attack on the left flank while holding down the defense at the same time.

With the focus on the defenders, RSL needs to be careful as both Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon are on yellow card accumulation warning, meaning that both of them will be suspended for one match if they receive another yellow card. Glad has two games left before reaching a good behavior incentive, while Lennon has four games to go. Marcelo Silva is on yellow card warning as well, but still remains on the injury list.

Playoff picture after this weekend’s slate:

Best case: 3rd place, with RSL win and LAFC loss or draw
Worst case: 6th place, with RSL loss and Portland + Seattle wins

Minnesota United

Record: 9-16-2 (29 points)
Table: 9th place (west), 17th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.07 (17th in MLS)
Most goals: Darwin Quintero (10)
Most assists: Darwin Quintero (9)
Clean sheets: 2
Form: LDLLL

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

All but out

The Loons aren’t technically out of the playoff race yet — with 21 points still up for grabs, they could definitely make the cut if they somehow win all seven of their remaining games. The likelihood of that happening? Slim to none. They sit in ninth place with just 29 points, currently on a six-game winless streak. Five of those six games were losses.

One more loss would tie the club’s all-time record for the longest losing streak. Of course, “all-time” for Minnesota really only dates back to the beginning of 2017 when they began their MLS campaign as an expansion team.

Tired legs and injuries

On top of their poor form, Minnesota just played a game earlier this week that resulted in a 2-1 road loss to DC United on Wednesday, dropping their record away from home to a lowly 1W-12L-1D this season.

While Darwin Quintero has been Minnesota’s only saving grace this season — leading in both goals (10) and assists (9) — the Loons have been without arguably their best player all season, Kevin Molino, who went down with an injury in only the second game of the year. Molino was off to a hot start, scoring two goals in Minnesota’s first game this season. Unfortunately for he and his club, he tore his left ACL and hasn’t made it back to the field yet, as the ACL tear was declared a season-ending injury.

Minnesota is also without Ethan Finlay, who also tore his ACL back in April, and Sam Cronin who hasn’t played a minute all season due to a cervicogenic dysfunction.


Absences

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)
QUESTIONABLE: Marcelo Silva (ankle)

Minnesota United
OUT: Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn ACL), Ethan Finlay (torn ACL)
QUESTIONABLE: Eric Miller (undisclosed injury)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, Glad, Besler, Herrera; Beckerman, Sunny; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Kreilach

MIN: Shuttleworth; Boxall, Kallman, Calvo; Ibarra, Schuller, Warner, Thiesson; Ibson; Rodriguez, Quintero

Match info

When: Saturday, September 15, 7:30PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 89 degrees, breezy (16mph winds)

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

Referee: Chris Penso