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San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake: what we’re watching and how to watch

Real Salt Lake head to the Golden State to take on the Quakes 

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake are back on the road and take on western conference opponents San Jose Earthquakes. What makes this match extra interesting is how close the teams are in the table, with RSL currently occupying the final playoff spot in the west and San Jose just blow them on one fewer points. That means a win for the Earthquakes would allow them to leapfrog RSL in the standings.

A Sam-less attack

On Wednesday, Sam Johnson scored an incredible goal, but then came off at the half. Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke told RSL Soapbox that the training staff informed him that Johnson had to come off the field due to an injury to his quad (see full injury list below). He’s listed as questionable for this game, but it seems unlikely that he’ll make the starting XI. Johnson leads the team with 8 goals this season, so his loss will be felt.

With the return of Venezuelan winger Jefferson Savarino to Real, we’re likely to see Damir slot into his (false) nine role of 2018. We should see Bofo on the left wing, Jefferson on the right, Rusnak as the attacking midfielder, and Damir up top. With it being the third game in about a week, the wildcard here is who needs rest. Baird could see minutes, but played on Wednesday. The 2018 Rookie of the Year didn’t have a bad game, but he was a bit invisible for stretches.

Backline

RSL’s backline have kept back-to-back clean sheets. Granted, those wins were at home, but it’s a good sign of success, especially given rotation. This week we’re likely to see Rimando in goal, Toia, Silva, Glad, and Herrera. Nedum Onuoha left Wednesday’s game early, signaling to the coaching staff that he needed to come off the field. Nedum has since been added to the injury list as questionable (adductor).

Marcelo Silva is a pretty incredible backup center back. He looked confident and comfortable with the minutes he had midweek. Can the backline find success on the road?

Woad Roes

RSL is currently averaging 0.8 points per game when they’re on the road. That is fairly poor. The team’s home form has made up for that and allowed them to stay above the playoff line, but if they lose to the Earthquakes, they’ll jump RSL in the standings and thus, push Real into 8th place. Real’s last away game was to Chicago (a team that just beat Atlanta 5-1) and they get away with a 1-1 draw. That’s a decent result. But San Jose has better home form that the Fire, with a 6-3-1 record at Avaya Stadium. This will be a tougher test for RSL. Has the form from the last three games signaled a shift in performance or will this be another tough game outside of Utah?

Injury Report

OUT:

Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)

DOUBTFUL:

Beltran (knee 3/15/19)

QUESTIONABLE:

Onuoha (adductor; 7/3/19)

Johnson (quad; 7/3/19)

Predicted Lineup