This is the day. We all get to watch our team, at home, and likely in person. After a decent road result against Houston last weekend, we have slightly more knowledge about what to expect from Real. Mike Petke’s first game in charge of RSL was home game in 2017 where it dumped snow. It’s possible we get another snow game, and if past is precedent, we could see another snow win.
When it comes to selection, the number one question is if Sam Johnson makes the starting XI. He looked good in his half hour on the field last week. The coaching staff may continue to ease him in after a minor preseason injury. We’re likely in for a similar lineup this week as last Saturday. With Glad injured, our backline is probably set for the time (Lennon, Onuoha, Silva, Herrera). The one change that would be nice, especially on the home opener, is seeing Tony Beltran in the lineup. He could be a possible substitute if Petke is hoping to get him some game minutes, or play a fan favorite.
At this early stage of the season, the team is still figuring out how to get everyone minutes. Or perhaps the question should be who is best for RSL? Plata, Baird, Savarino, Rusnak, Johnson, Kreilach, and Bofo are all attackers and it’s not easy to fit 7 guys into four spots.
After one game, Everton Luiz jumped up for interesting signing to exciting midfield destroyer. He did a good job of breaking up attacks and cleaning up RSL mistakes last week. He plays hard, too. Everton is sure to get quite a few yellow cards and probably a few reds this season. And that’s a good thing. We need a guy in the middle who can put fear into opposition players. Watch to see how he and Beckerman work together and how they each position themselves on the field in different moments. If Beckerman is going to remain a starter, his on the field relationship with Luiz will be key.
This time last year, we all entered Rio Tinto Stadium with high expectations. 2017 had finished on such a positive note that 2018 was sure to be the year of Real Salt Lake dominance. We were facing MLS newcomers Los Angeles FC, who barely had a an 18 man roster just before the start of the season. We were ready to watch our team destroy. But that’s not what happened. LAFC handed Real their worst ever loss in Utah, a 5-1 trashing (we’ve since been vindicated by karate kicks and playoff knockouts).
The start of this season, the fanbase seems more cautious with their optimism. The signings haven’t been flashy. The hype around Johnson is in no way similar to the hype around Ortuno. And while RSL made the playoffs last season, it wasn’t as strong a run as the playoff-less end of 2017.
This all informs what happens at the Riot today. Utah fans (not you specifically, reader) are fickle. The weather will be poor. The hype, while there, isn’t as high as last year. But RSL is in a much better position for a win. No one quite understand how good LAFC would be, but Vancouver are going to be rebuilding this year, and it’s not unfair to read that as poor. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is gauging the environment of Rio Tinto. The Riot, an umbrella supporters group, has been working hard to improve the atmosphere this season (including the largest tifo in stadium history). Will Real Salt Lake be fully supported by the home fans this year?
Jordan Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Justen Glad (toe; 2/28/19)
Mike Petke stated that Glad was expected to be out 4-6 weeks.