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Match preview: RSL takes on New York Red Bulls in second straight road game

Mike Petke returns to face his former club at Red Bull Arena for the first time since taking the reins at Real Salt Lake.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake, coming off a 2-1 loss in Montreal, will finish up their two-game Eastern Conference road trip with their third game in nine days, taking on the New York Red BullsMike Petke’s former team in both his playing and coaching career.

Kickoff is slated for 5:00PM MT from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, before RSL takes a three-week break from league play due to a break for international play.

Series history

RSL and RBNY have met 21 times in league play throughout their history, resulting in a 5W-7L-9D record for the Utah side. They also met in one playoff game in RSL’s first-ever playoff appearance back in 2008, but the Red Bulls escaped Rio Tinto Stadium with a 1-0 victory to advance to the MLS Cup Final.

Not that we should rely on historical stats too much, but RSL has only pulled off one win at Red Bull Arena, which came in September of 2011 as they handily defeated New York thanks to a brace from Fabian Espindola and another goal from Alvaro Saborio. The rest of the games in Red Bull territory have resulted in four draws and five losses altogether.

Of course, the last time these teams met was in March of last year where RSL secured a 1-0 victory thanks to an early Albert Rusnak penalty kick goal, and some stellar defensive play for the rest of the game.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 6-7-1 (19 points)
Table: 6th place (west)
Points per game: 1.36
Most goals: Albert Rusnak (5), Sam Johnson (5)
Most assists: Corey Baird (2), Nick Besler (2), Sebastian Saucedo (2), Albert Rusnak (2)
Clean sheets: 3
Form: LWWWL

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Montreal Impact Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Well, they almost pulled it off in Montreal. It was a rocky start, sure, but RSL found their footing later in the game, especially after youngsters Corey Baird and Bofo Saucedo came on the field. Sam Johnson grabbed a late goal — his fifth of the season — but the team was unable to find an equalizer after that. It wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve seen RSL play, but it wasn’t the worst either. Mike Petke made the choice to rest plenty of players due to the double game week, starting guys like Erik Holt and Justin Portillo. Brooks Lennon even made his return to right back, as Aaron Herrera sat this one out.

This will also be Mike Petke’s first return to Red Bull Arena as a coach since he was fired by the club after the end of the 2014 season, where he led the Red Bulls to a fourth-place finish and a narrow loss in the conference finals. Petke was officially hired by RSL on March 29th, 2017 — just four days after RSL’s last road trip to face off against the Red Bulls, for which interim coach Daryl Shore took the reins after Jeff Cassar had been let go.

Does Petke have something to prove to his former club? Probably not. It’s been over four years since he was fired as the Red Bulls’ main man, and he’s already shot down any talk of revenge. “There’s no — any cliche you want to throw out — getting back at a team or a tear in my eye or something. No. It’s another game at a place that I’m familiar with,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Lineup decisions

Since Petke rested some key players earlier in the week in Montreal, we can probably expect to see a full-strength lineup against the Red Bulls. Of course, Albert Rusnak came off early in the second half of the last game with an apparent ankle injury, and is listed as probable on the updated injury report. We could still see him get the start, but don’t be shocked if he doesn’t immediately see the field in this one. Unfortunately for RSL, the go-to guy who would usually step up in Rusnak’s absence, Damir Kreilach, will sit this game out due to yellow card accumulation after he received his fifth caution on Wednesday night.

In Kreilach’s absence, there’s a good chance we could see Kyle Beckerman make his return after missing the last five games with an injury. Kyle is also listed as probable on the official injury report, and with Everton Luiz finally being recovered from his injury, they could be the likely duo to start in defensive midfield.

Other than that, expect the usual suspects to get the starting nod. We still don’t know for sure if Corey Baird or Sam Johnson will start at the point of the attack, and I’m glad I’m not the one having to make a tough decision like that.

Absences

OUT: Jordan Allen (knee; out for season), Tony Beltran (knee), Damir Kreilach (yellow card accumulation)
DOUBTFUL: -none-
QUESTIONABLE: -none-
PROBABLE: Kyle Beckerman (hamstring), Albert Rusnak (ankle)

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

Kyle Beckerman (4)

Projected lineup

Rimando; Herrera, Onuoha, Glad, Toia; Beckerman, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Saucedo; Baird

New York Red Bulls

Record: 6-5-3 (21 points)
Table: 5th place (east)
Points per game: 1.5
Most goals: Brian White (3)
Most assists: Daniel Royer (4)
Clean sheets: 3
Form: LWWDW

MLS: New York Red Bulls at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Bulls, who had a pretty rough start to the season which saw them go 1-4-2 in their first seven outings, have started to turn things around. They’re coming off their third shutout of the season as they took down MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati last week at Nippert Stadium.

The usual focus of New York, Bradley Wright-Phillips, hasn’t played since April 20th, missing the last seven games with a groin injury. He’s listed as questionable but still hasn’t seen any minutes, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll see the field this weekend or not.

Regardless, the Red Bulls have been mostly getting it done without him, relying heavily on 23-year-old Brian White who has notched a team-high three goals and two assists on the season so far. He has stepped in for Wright-Phillips and played six of the last seven games in BWP’s absence, making a solid case for himself going forward with head coach Chris Armas.

New York’s international break won’t start as soon as RSL’s, as their next match comes on June 8th before they take a three-week hiatus from league play themselves.

Absences

OUT: Florian Valot (torn ACL)
DOUBTFUL: -none-
QUESTIONABLE: Bradley Wright-Phillips (groin), Aaron Long (hamstring), Vincent Bezecourt (knee)
PROBABLE: Daniel Royer (muscle tightness)

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

-none-

Projected lineup

Robles; Murillo, Parker, Tarek, Lawrence; Davis, Casseres Jr, Muyl, Rzatkowski, Ivan; White


Match info

When: Saturday, June 1, 2019, 5:00PM MT

Where: Red Bull Arena — Harrison, NJ

Weather: 76 degrees, cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio), 107.1 FM (Spanish radio)

Referee: Armando Villarreal