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RSL vs. Portland Timbers: Who starts up top?

Will we see Sam Johnson up top? Is Corey Baird back in the lineup?

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

With Real Salt Lake’s match coming much more quickly than I thought it would (see: The Salt this week), I’m starting to realize that while I think I have a pretty good idea of who will start, there are still several questions I have, and I don’t think there’s much certainty.

So, let’s talk it out.

Forward: Johnson vs. Baird (and Kreilach and Rusnak)

I’m a Sam Johnson appreciator, but I don’t think that means he’s a lock to start. In recent weeks, he’s been supplanted by Corey Biard, who is a very different sort of player. They do share some similar qualities — they’re both quick, they both like to run off the shoulder, they’re both big on counterattacking play — but I do think Baird is a player that brings more cohesion to play than Johnson. Is it necessary cohesion? I don’t know. That’s a big question, and I’d rather answer it looking backward rather than looking forward.

But also, Damir Kreilach

Oh, yeah.

I forgot about Kreilach. (Kind of.)

Could Damir Kreilach end up starting up top? I think there’s a pretty good chance. It does leave us with an interesting gap out left, though.

Here’s an interesting thing: We were listed as playing a 4-4-2 in our last match of the season, with Albert Rusnak and Kreilach sharing the striking responsibilities. I think that’s somewhat close to reality. It does further underscore to me that we were largely playing amorphously for most of the season, with Kreilach, Rusnak and Johnson all playing in mostly-attacking roles. That’s continued, but we’ve seen Baird put into that mix a bit more.

All the same, I think we have one lineup decision here and a whole host of tactical decisions that could follow. I think we’re likely to see Baird start instead of Johnson, though it should be said that there exist possibilities that we could see both start — however, they’re terribly unlikely.

Essentially, I suspect we’ll see Baird out left and Rusnak sharing striking responsibilities with Kreilach. Johnson would, in this case, be on the bench.

Center back: Glad vs. Silva

Interestingly, I think there’s still a center back battle out there. While Justen Glad started most of the season, Marcelo Silva has been utilized down the stretch in some crucial games. He’s certainly a strong figure, and he has that over Glad. But he does have a troubling tendency to get sucked out of position, and that has long been his achilles heel.

So we’ll see what happens here. Glad is a better reader of play, and Silva is a more dominant, domineering defender. Yeah.

Other questions

  • Will we see a substitute before the 80th minute? I actually think we’re more likely to see late subs tonight, depending on the gamestate, simply because we may have extra time and penalties to contend with. So tonight, don’t be surprised — I actually think that’s pretty reasonable.
  • Will Bofo Saucedo see minutes? He has two assists in his last two appearances, and I really think we need to think about him as an impact player. I’d love to see it.
  • Will we start the match defensively, or will we start on the front foot? How will we balance our desire to create with our need to stay safe against a potentially dangerous Portland Timbers?