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Match preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

RSL kicks off their 2019 home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps, hoping to build off the momentum they showed in Houston last week.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake kicks off their 2019 home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend, looking to build on the point on the road they earned last week in the 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo, thanks to a first-half goal from Albert Rusnak.

One thing to note right off the bat in the series between RSL and Vancouver is that the home team has won the last eight meetings in a row, which is weighted in the Whitecaps’ favor, winning five of those last eight while RSL only came out on top for three of them. The last time a visiting team took all three points was in April of 2015, when Vancouver stole a 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Vancouver holds the edge in the all-time series, boasting a record of 9W-6L-5D over RSL since they came into the league in 2011.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 0-0-1 (1 point)
Table: T-9th place (west)
Points per game: 1.00
Most goals: Albert Rusnak (1)
Most assists: Corey Baird (1)
Clean sheets: 0
Form: D

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Time to make Rio Tinto Stadium a fortress

Although last season only saw Real Salt Lake squeak into the playoffs in the 11th hour, they were still a force to be reckoned with at home. Securing a solid 11-2-4 record at the RioT, it made them one of the better teams in the league on their home field. Of course, as we all remember, they were abysmal on the road with only three wins while they went 3-11-3.

Last week, they started their road play on a relatively high note, controlling much of the game in Houston, and looking like they found their rhythm within the first 20 minutes of the match. Now we get to see what they can do in front of their home fans against a Vancouver side who didn’t look so hot last week against Minnesota.

Lineup decisions

While we got a taste last week of what Mike Petke has in mind for this season as far as lineup selection, it still doesn’t fully solidify what we’ll see against Vancouver this weekend. We know that Justen Glad is out with a broken toe, so we’ll see the center-back pairing of Nedum Onuoha and Marcelo Silva again. There’s a lot of speculation about whether we’ll see Sam Johnson get the start this week over Corey Baird, although Baird looked great last week and had a beautiful assist to Rusnak for the team’s lone goal.

It’s probably safe to say that lineups can and will change from week to week for a long while. Since there’s so much competition for nearly every position on the field, Petke is spoiled for choice and will most likely start who impresses him the most in training leading up to any given game.

Beginning of the end for the G.O.A.T.

This weekend’s home opener marks the first of 17 more regular season home games for Nick Rimando, as he recently announced he would be retiring at the end of this season. He’ll turn 40 this year, marking his 20th season in MLS.

Absences

OUT: Jordan Allen (knee; out for season), Justen Glad (broken toe)

Projected Lineup

Rimando; Lennon, Silva, Onuoha, Herrera; Beckerman, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Baird; Kreilach

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Record: 0-1-0 (0 points)
Table: T-10th place (west)
Points per game: 0
Most goals: Doneil Henry (1), Erik Godoy (1)
Most assists: PC (1), Yordy Reyna (1), Inbeom Hwang (1)
Clean sheets: 0
Form: L

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Rough start

The season didn’t quite start off how Vancouver had hoped as they suffered a loss at home to Minnesota United, giving Minnesota just their fifth-ever win on the road. The Whitecaps went up early with a goal from Erik Godoy in the sixth minute, but Minnesota pulled off three in a row from Darwin Quintero, Francisco Calvo, and Romario Ibarra to take a 3-1 lead. Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry grabbed one more in the 81st minute, but they were unable to find an equalizer and ended the game with a 3-2 loss.

This marks the first time Vancouver has lost their opening game since 2016.

They’ll obviously hope to bounce back on the road this week against RSL, but that will be no easy feat for a team whose defense has struggled for years, letting in 67 goals overall last season. With RSL’s new DP signing Sam Johnson available, as well as the multitude of other attackers chomping at the bit, the Whitecaps will likely be looking to make a clean sheet their top priority.

New lineup, who dis?

Looking back to the last time these teams battled at Rio Tinto Stadium, there are only two players from the Whitecaps starting lineup in that game that are still on the team now — Jake Nerwinski and Felipe Martins. They made plenty of moves in the offseason, bringing in names like Fredy Montero, Erik Godoy, Zac MacMath, PC, and Scott Sutter.

Montero has a history both in MLS and Vancouver, spending four years with the Seattle Sounders before heading off to Sporting CP, followed by Tianjin TEDA. Tianjin loaned him to the Whitecaps for the 2017 season, where he played 33 games and notched 13 goals and six assists. Montero went back to Sporting CP in 2018 for an 18-month contract, but in February of 2019 his contract was mutually terminated with the club and he made his way back to Vancouver on a permanent basis.

The Whitecaps have only won once in Salt Lake — the aforementioned 1-0 victory back in 2015. To boot, they’ve only ever scored six goals on RSL’s home field, so history is more than on the home team’s side.

Absences

OUT: Michael Baldisimo (knee contusion), Jasser Khmiri (knee), Brett Levis (hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Russell Teibert (ankle sprain)

Projected Lineup

Crepeau; Nerwinski, Godoy, Henry, Cornelius; Erice; Felipe, Hwang; Reyna, Montero, Venturo


Match info

When: Saturday, March 9, 2019, 4:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 39 degrees, rain into snow

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

Referee: Drew Fischer