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Match preview: Real Salt Lake hosts 2nd-place Seattle Sounders

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RSL looks to extend their unbeaten streak to six games as they play host to second-place Seattle Sounders.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Guess what? RSL still has soccer to play this week! It’s only been a few days since the last one, but it feels like months with all the craziness going on over the weekend.

Real Salt Lake kicks off their first game since Mike Petke’s dismissal at home against the Seattle Sounders, followed by a weekend game at home against league-leading LAFC. It’s a little hard to remember that RSL still has games going on amidst all the chaos and drama surrounding the coaching position, but Freddy Juarez and the team are in great form as of late and we’d all like to see them continue down that path.

This week is no easy feat though, as Seattle sits second in the Western Conference — although they’re just two points ahead of RSL, and a win at home would catapult RSL into second place themselves, unless of course either Minnesota or the LA Galaxy get wins in their midweek games as well.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 11-9-4 (37 points)
Table: 6th place (west)
Points per game: 1.54
Most goals: Sam Johnson (8), Albert Rusnak (8)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (5)
Clean sheets: 7
Form: WDDWW

MLS: New York City FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Five. That’s how many games RSL is unbeaten in at the moment. It’s the biggest streak of their season, and we want to see them keep riding it out.

Coming off big back-to-back wins against New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City, RSL is riding high on some wonderful attacking play, thanks to the likes of Jefferson Savarino, Corey Baird, and Albert Rusnak. Now with Sam Johnson back in the mix as he comes back from injury, their attack will only get more potent as they look to take down a battered Seattle Sounders at home in midweek action.

That home record tho

Real Salt Lake has been good at home this year. Really good. In fact they’ve only lost twice all season, and it’s been since May 4th when Portland left with a 2-1 victory. The only loss before that? The wild 4-2 game against FC Dallas that saw Damir Kreilach ejected for a head butt. How can we forget?

Aside from that, they’ve won eight games and tied one at home, really securing the home field as a fortress this season. Wins include the commanding 3-1 victory over NYCFC earlier this month, and of course the 4-0 drubbing of Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union, who — by the way — haven’t lost a game since.

Freddy at the helm

We all know the statistic that’s been floating around that points out how Freddy’s never lost a game while in charge of the first team. Obviously, that won’t last forever, but it’s a good place to start as Juarez officially takes the reins as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

As mentioned before, RSL is currently unbeaten in their last five, and has a chance to push it a little further this week as their schedule gets tougher. Their next three games in a row are at home (Seattle, LAFC, Colorado) and they’ll have a good chance to gather up every point they possibly can heading into the playoffs in just a couple of months.

In defense, Marcelo Silva has stepped up and played the full 90 for the past six games in a row, showing that he really wants to earn that starting spot back from Nedum Onuoha. Now that Onuoha is back in the country and healthy, it looks as though it’ll be a battle for who will land the starting spot permanently under Juarez.

Everton Luiz should also be back in action after serving a one-game suspension last week due to yellow card accumulation.

Absences

OUT: Jordan Allen (knee; out for season), Tony Beltran (knee)
PROBABLE: Sebastian Saucedo (quad)

Projected lineup

Rimando; Herrera, Silva, Glad, Toia; Beckerman, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Baird; Kreilach

Seattle Sounders

Record: 11-7-6 (39 points)
Table: 2nd place (west)
Points per game: 1.63
Most goals: Raul Ruidiaz (8)
Most assists: Nicolas Lodeiro (11)
Clean sheets: 7
Form: WLWLD

MLS: New England Revolution at Seattle Sounders FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of celebrating their new ownership from big-name celebrities like Russell Wilson, Ciara, and Macklemore, Seattle has a bit of a problem on their hands as they head into a tough stretch with an injury list that just won’t shrink.

Injury woes and absences

They lost Will Bruin a couple months ago for the remainder of the season due to an ACL tear, while other important players like Victor Rodriguez has missed the last five straight, and both Gustav Svensson and Kelvin Leerdam have been out for the last three matches. On top of all that, they lost arguably their best defender in Chad Marshall earlier this year when he announced his retirement from professional soccer. In addition, homegrown player Henry Wingo just completed a transfer to Norwegian side Molde FK recently, so he’s already gone as well.

Kim Kee-hee picked up his fifth yellow card last week in the New England match so he’ll also be out with a yellow card accumulation suspension, while defender Roman Torres was recently suspended for 10 games by MLS for using a performance-enhancing substance.

It’s all taken a toll on Seattle’s season — they’ve lost two of their last five and have only been able to keep one clean sheet in that time. While other teams in the west (like RSL) are on the rise, Seattle is poised to take a tumble down the table if they can’t stay healthy, and we’re at a point in the season where there’s no room for error. Just five points separate second place and eighth place at the moment, so we’ll easily see some shuffling in between those spots over the next few weeks.

Stars can still shine

Even with all the missing players, they’ve still got plenty of solid talent on the field, including superstar Nicolas Lodeiro, who’s notched five goals and 11 assists this season. The combination play between he and leading scorer Raul Ruidiaz has been remarkable when they’re firing on all cylinders, and Ruidiaz is one of the most dangerous scorers in the league at times.

Add to that Jordan Morris who’s had some health issues of his own, but when he’s at his best he can put balls into the back of the net just as easily.

Luckily, RSL’s defense has been on point lately and should give the Seattle attack some real trouble this week.

Road form

Seattle has only won three games on the road this year, while losing five and drawing three. That’s honestly not too bad when looking at the rest of the teams in the Western Conference, while LAFC have won seven on the road and Portland have won six. Everyone else is down with four or less wins, with RSL sitting at three also.

But with Seattle’s just-average road form being pitted up against Real Salt Lake’s stellar home record, it’s sure to be an exciting match-up.

Absences

OUT: Will Bruin (torn ACL, out for season), Alex Roldan (ankle sprain), Brad Smith (adductor), Kim Kee-hee (yellow card accumulation), Roman Torres (suspension)
QUESTIONABLE: Gustav Svensson (hamstring strain), Victor Rodriguez (hamstring strain), Kelvin Leerdam (ankle sprain)

Projected lineup

Frei; Jones, Abdul-Salaam, Arreaga, Tolo; Delem, Roldan; Shipp, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz


Match info

When: Wednesday, August 14, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 87 degrees, clear skies

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

Referee: Armando Villarreal