It’s been a strange and difficult start to 2019 for Real Salt Lake. Four red cards in three games is as far from ideal as you can get, especially when each of those three games was also a loss. RSL’s road form hasn’t been exactly stellar the last few years either, but the team have found success in the emerald city in the past.
Far and away the most obvious question about this game is if the team can go a full 90 minutes without receiving a red card. Going a game without getting a red card should not be a measurement of success, but the team sure needs that right now. Head coach Mike Petke is adamant that his team doesn’t have a discipline issue. After all, the team went the whole of 2018 without a single red and the personal hasn’t changed all that much. A few of those reds were certainly soft reds, the kind of calls that might see yellow but not outside the realm of being called as a red.
The team hasn’t lost a game this season when they’ve had all 11 men for the full 90 minutes. Can each and every player be smart, keep emotions in check, and put in a full shift?
Dealing with the attack
Seattle’s attack is very good. They’re tied for third in the league for most goals with 10 (LAFC have 15, SKC 11). I believe RSL’s defense has improved this season, but that’s a tall order. Brooks Lennon has struggled as a right back. It’s not his natural position and he looked much more comfortable against LAFC when he was on the wing. Silva and Onuoha are sure to be the center back pairing. If Toia plays left back and Herrera right, that gives the backline the best chance to be effective against the Sounders.
Ruidiaz is likely to miss this game with a heel issue. That still leaves players like Morris and Lodeiro for the defense to deal with. In a system where the outside backs are asked to contribute to the attack, can they help with moving the ball up field and creating chances, but also get back to deal with Seattle’s forwards?
Damir Kreilach will miss this game due to the red card in last weekend’s game. He is arguably RSL’s best player, so having him out is obviously not ideal. However, the team has so much talent up top that it should give other players an opportunity to show what they can offer. I don’t think we’ll see a major change, but this would mean that Johnson gets his last awaited start. This game should also see Rusnak return to his attacking midfield role. There’s simply not room in the starting XI to fit Rusnak, Baird, Bofo, Savarino, Schmitt, Johnson, Plata (unlikely to play), and Kreilach (also out). Who starts and who impresses with one of the elder statesmen out?
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Holt (ankle; 3/30/19)
Beltran (knee, 3/15/19),
Henley (ankle; 3/19/19)
Plata (ankle; 3/2/19);
Glad (toe; 2/28/19)
Damir Kreilach will be out on a red card this weekend.