It’s the March FIFA international break, so MLS is in full swing and each team is effect. For Real, that means three starters (Rusnak, Baird, Johnson, plus Vazquez) are out. For LAFC, they’re missing five players, but most notably starters Christian Ramirez and Mark-Anthony Kaye. LAFC are undefeated in 2919 — their last loss was against RSL in the 2018 playoffs. They’re looking strong at this early stage of the season. After a terrible game last Saturday, can RSL get anything out of this match?
Who is out
Before we can discuss what to expect in this game, we need to talk about who all is out. The four players on international duty are Rusnak, Baird, Johnson, and Vazquez. Of those, Rusnak always starts. Johnson is getting to the point where it wouldn’t be out of place to see him start, even if he hasn’t yet. Baird has started all three of RSL’s games this season. Julian Vazquez, the 17 year old academy product, has yet to see a game with the first team.
Then there’s the red cards. The fact that Savarino didn’t get a call up from Venezuela was a source of comfort, but after that DC game, he’ll be serving his red card suspension today. Marcelo Silva also was sure to start this game, but now he’s out as well. Which brings us to our next issue: injuries.
RSL has four player listed with injury. Allen, Glad, Plata, and Beltran. The first three are listed as out, and Beltran is listed as questionable. During Friday’s training, none of the four injured players were participating in full team practice, so it’s safe to assume they’re all out today.
Overall, Real is down 8 players who could all be starting a game. The team has decent depth, but that makes a competitive starting XI much more difficult.
Who is in
A major silver lining here is seeing some new faces in the lineup. It’s not the ideal way to work in new guys, but it is an opportunity to see team growth. A similar situation saw Justen Glad get a chance and that resulted in an away win in Kansas City several years ago.
The back line: I think we see Holt slot into Silva’s center back spot. Holt signed a home grown contract with the team this year. The 22 year old played the full 90 in both of the Monarchs two games this season and help the team keep a clean sheet when down a player for most of last weekend’s match. Nedum is sure to start as well as is Herrera, but with so many players out on the attack, we may see Lennon pushed up the field. This would mean bringing in Donny Toia to left back. Toia got his start with Real back in 2011 and having him on the field would mean Herrera could play on the right side, which is his natural position.
The middle field should see the fewest changes, with Everton, Beckerman, and Kreilach all in familiar roles.
The attack is where things are thinnest. Bofo will start on the left wing, perhaps Lennon on the right wing, and Tate Schmitt at center forward. That could be way off, but it seems to put the best players in their natural positions. Schmitt has been on the bench for RSL once and played 38 minutes with the Monarchs (a red card caused a change which saw him come off the field), so he’s more untested than even Holt, but he’s a talented player and this could be a good chance for him to get meaningful minutes.
We could see something entirely different. Bofo could play the 10 with Kreilach up top. Lennon could be at right back with other guys like Schmitt and Ruiz on the wings, but I think that lineup (graphic below) puts the best players in their best positions. The story of this game is the lineup and starting XI, which makes tonight so interesting.
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Glad (toe; 2/28/19)
Plata (ankle; 3/17/19)
Beltran (knee, 3/15/19)