Real Salt Lake’s last seven days have been riddled with talk, banter, and highlights about Wayne Rooney’s hat trick along with DC United’s 5-0 pounding of the visitors at Audi Field last week. Now it’s time for RSL to pick themselves up, head to Los Angeles, and look to get a result against a very good LAFC team at the Banc of California Stadium.
It won’t be easy. Not even close. RSL will be without a slew of important players due to red cards, injury, and international duty during this week’s stunted MLS slate due to the FIFA break.
The last time RSL made the trip to meet LAFC on the road, they got out of there with a 3-2 win in the knockout round of the 2018 playoffs, moving on to the Western Conference Semifinals against Sporting Kansas City. That last trip also got us this legendary beauty from Damir “Karate Kid” Kreilach:
It never gets old, right?
That game was one for the history books, as everyone around the country assumed LAFC would get the win and move on in their first-ever playoff appearance. RSL put the kibosh on that thanks to Kreilach’s two goals, dashing the dreams of LAFC players and supporters alike.
Real Salt Lake
Record: 1-1-1 (4 points)
Table: 8th place (west)
Points per game: 1.33
Most goals: Albert Rusnak (2)
Most assists: Corey Baird (1)
Clean sheets: 1
Depleted roster woes
I’m not going to sugarcoat it — RSL is in a pretty bad spot this week. They’re missing a whole bunch of players in this road trip to Los Angeles, and they just suffered a massive 5-0 loss a week ago on the road in DC. To further that, LAFC wasn’t hit quite as hard with international call-ups as star striker Carlos Vela was overlooked by Mexico head coach Tata Martino for this week’s friendlies.
Let’s hit the laundry list of players RSL will be without: Corey Baird, Sam Johnson, Julian Vasquez, and Albert Rusnak are all away with their respective national teams this weekend, while both Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva will be sidelined with a one-game suspension after receiving red cards in DC last week. Injury-wise, Joao Plata is still out with an ankle injury while Justen Glad is still out with his broken toe, although he was seen out on the training field earlier this week watching his teammates practice.
That’s seven potential starters that won’t see the field this weekend, and leaves Petke in kind of a pickle. With Rusnak out, we’ll likely see Kreilach step in to fill his spot, which leaves the center striker position empty. The other two players who would normally slide in there — Baird and Johnson — are both out, so who do we see play up top? Will Petke even decide to play with a center striker this week? Furthermore, with both Glad and Silva out, it means we’ll probably see Nick Besler start at center back next to Nedum Onuoha.
They can still make it happen
Just because they’re missing some regular starters this week doesn’t mean that they absolutely can’t get a result. It’s still possible, and crazier things have happened. Kyle Beckerman and Everton Luiz will still be able to start as defensive midfielders and hopefully help shore up any defensive weaknesses on the backline. On top of that, Donny Toia is ready to go should Petke feel that the outside backs need any sort of mixing up, while Tony Beltran is still looking doubtful this week after suffering a knee injury.
Since RSL is lacking most in the attack, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lennon make the move to the right wing while either Toia or Beltran (if he’s healthy) slots in at right back. So many decisions and so many options, all we can do is speculate at this point.
OUT: Albert Rusnak (int’l duty), Sam Johnson (int’l duty), Corey Baird (int’l duty), Julian Vazquez (int’l duty), Jefferson Savarino (red card suspension), Marcelo Silva (red card suspension), Justen Glad (toe), Joao Plata (ankle), Jordan Allen (knee; out for season)
DOUBTFUL: Tony Beltran (knee)
Rimando; Herrera, Onuoha, Besler, Toia; Beckerman, Luiz; Lennon, Kreilach, Saucedo; Schmitt
Los Angeles FC
Record: 2-0-1 (6 points)
Table: 2nd place (west)
Points per game: 2.33
Most goals: Carlos Vela (2)
Most assists: Carlos Vela (2), Latif Blessing (2)
Clean sheets: 0
Off to a good start
LAFC, coming off a 2-2 draw on the road against NYCFC, is sitting near the top of the pack in the Western Conference thanks to Carlos Vela and his three goals and two assists. They’ve got plenty of attacking firepower between Vela, Diego Rossi, and Adama Diomande who has two goals and one assist in just 103 minutes played this season. All three of those players will be available this weekend, backed up by youngster Latif Blessing in the midfield who’s already notched two assists himself.
RSL’s defense is really going to be put to the test against this LAFC team, who will be looking for revenge after last year’s playoff knockout round loss at home.
Missing a few
While not hit quite as hard with international call-ups as RSL, they’ll still be missing an important piece in forward Christian Ramirez, who’s sitting on one goal this season. He’s likely to be replaced by Diomande though, who could prove to be an even better starter. Defender Mark Anthony-Kaye will also be out on international duty, while outside back Steven Beitashour is still questionable after missing last week’s game due to a concussion.
OUT: Mark Anthony-Kaye (int’l duty), Christian Ramirez (int’l duty), Josh Perez (int’l duty), Mohamed El-Munir (int’l duty), Peter-Lee Vassell (int’l duty), Rodolfo Zelaya (soleus injury), Alejandro Guido (quad strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Steven Beitashour (concussion)
Miller; Silva, Zimmerman, Segura, Harvey; Horta, Atuesta, Blessing; Vela, Diomande, Rossi
When: Saturday, March 23, 2019, 8:30PM MT
Where: Banc of California Stadium — Los Angeles, CA
Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy
Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)
Referee: Ismail Elfath