We’re officially into the Freddy Juarez era of Real Salt Lake and now we get to see if the interim manager will roll out any significant changes from what we saw under Mike Petke. Tonight, Real host Seattle Sounders Football Club. The Sounders are a dangerous side, sit second in the west, but are only two points above sixth place RSL. Seattle also has a laundry list of injuries and suspensions; territory, while familiar to RSL, is not not a place the home team is in. It’s a big week with major playoff implications as RSL host the Sounders tonight and LAFC on Saturday, which means a 12 point swing in the playoffs. It’s impossible for RSL to overtake LAFC any time soon, but a few good results could see them in second place in the west.
A new era
The major talking point around Real Salt Lake the last several weeks has been the suspension and then firing of Mike Petke. The team appointed assistant coach Freddy Juarez as the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2019 season. Juarez has done well in the three games he’s been in charge during Petke’s suspension, first getting a valuable point in Dallas, then beating NYCFC at home, and lastly Sporting KC in Kansas City. The jump from RSL’s .8 points per game on the road to 2 ppg on the road under Freddy is a huge leap, and too small a sample size to really draw conclusions, other than that probably won’t continue. But it may be a sign of improved road form going forward.
This is similar to what I said last week, but watch for anything that seems different to what we’ve seen under Petke. This is the first game where Juarez can look at the team as really his own. It’s been said that he was the tactician on the coaching staff, now we get to see how that plays out with him in charge.
The 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year had an incredible game against Sporting Kansas City. He scored both of RSL’s goals against SKC and looked a constant danger throughout the game. Unlike 2018, where he was often the center forward, Baird played as a winger, which is his more natural position. That may have been the first game this season where he was truly outstanding and it was fun to watch. With Bofo listed as probable on the injury report, I think it unlikely that he gets the start over Baird. Now, Freddy could want to keep Baird fresh for the LAFC game, which is arguably the bigger match, but it seems like he won’t want to risk further injury to Bofo. Can Corey replicate his performance against SKC tonight?
One thing that was pointed out on the RSL Show that I found very interesting is how the team played much more through the middle, so going through Rusnak and Kreilach, over the wings. RSL has been very wing dependent in the last several years in the attack. It makes sense, as the team’s wingers are highly talented, but Rusnak is one of the best attackers on the team. Seeing him with the ball more and thus able to create more, will help the entire team. Looking for the balance between using the wings to attack and pushing up through the middle of the field.
RSL Injury Report
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Seattle Injury Report
Bruin (R ACL tear)
A. Roldan (L ankle sprain)
Smith (R adductor strain)
Kim (yellow card accumulation)
Leerdam (R ankle sprain)
Rodríguez (L hamstring strain)
Svensson (L hamstring strain)