clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Match preview: RSL looks to topple league leaders LAFC

New, 1 comment

LAFC, at the top of the league table, visits Salt Lake this weekend as RSL looks to extend their unbeaten streak to seven straight. Both teams sit on a three-game win streak at the moment.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-LAFC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Six in a row.

RSL is currently riding their longest unbeaten streak since 2017, when they also went six straight in the dead of summer. One more win or draw will make it their longest streak since 2014, when they opened the season with 12 unbeaten.

It’s huge, and it couldn’t come at a better time as we march toward playoffs. The only obstacle immediately ahead? They’ve got to get a result against the best team in the league to make it happen.

League-leading Los Angeles FC comes to town this weekend stacked with players like MVP favorite Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, Walker Zimmerman, Latif Blessing, and plenty of others.

The last time these two sides met in the regular season, it ended with LAFC needing a wild stoppage time goal from defender Walker Zimmerman to break the deadlock and steal all three points at home in the dying seconds as they took the 2-1 victory. They were, no doubt, happy to get revenge on a team that came in and knocked them out of their first-ever playoff appearance in 2018.

LAFC also made a trip here in June for the US Open Cup and handily defeated the home side with a 3-0 win, thanks to goals from Carlos Vela, Lee Nguyen, and Adama Diomande.

Both teams are currently on a three-game winning streak, but of course one of those has to come to an end this weekend.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 12-9-4 (40 points)
Table: 4th place (west)
Points per game: 1.6
Most goals: Sam Johnson (9), Albert Rusnak (9)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (5), Damir Kreilach (5)
Clean sheets: 8
Form: DDWWW

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been following this team at all over the past couple months, you know how well they’ve been playing. Not only are they unbeaten in six, but they’ve only lost one game in their last 10 outings, and that was a narrow 1-0 loss to San Jose on the road back in July. Granted, most of those games have been at home, but they’ve even been getting results on the road (2-1 at SKC, 1-1 at Dallas, 1-1 at Chicago) which, let’s be honest, has kind of surprised us all.

After knocking off the second-place Seattle Sounders (who fell to fifth) with an easy 3-0 win on Wednesday, RSL will now face their toughest challenge of the season as they host LAFC, who have been absolutely dominating the league all year long.

Interim coach Freddy Juarez fielded a full-strength lineup against Seattle, and it paid off in a big way. It’s hard to say whether Juarez will utilize rotation with the starting eleven this weekend, or just go for it even with the possibility of some tired legs. RSL won’t be missing anyone new since Wednesday, as Nick Besler is the newest addition to the injury list with a broken foot and had to miss the Seattle game.

Four players are on yellow card accumulation warning — Kyle Beckerman, Corey Baird, Bofo Saucedo, and Nick Besler — meaning next time any of those guys get a yellow card, they’ll be forced to sit out the following match.

Sam Johnson, in his first start since July third after missing several games with an injury, got right back to his scoring ways as he grabbed the first goal of the game this week against Seattle. He’s scored nine goals in 18 games this season, averaging one goal every two games all year long.

Absences

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

Projected lineup

Rimando; Herrera, Onuoha, Glad, Toia; Kreilach, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Baird; Johnson

Los Angeles FC

Record: 17-3-4 (55 points)
Table: 1st place (west)
Points per game: 2.29
Most goals: Carlos Vela (23)
Most assists: Carlos Vela (15)
Clean sheets: 7
Form: WLWWW

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no getting around it: LAFC is the best team in the league. Period. They’ve soared above the rest of the league all season long, and currently sit 14 points clear of second-place Minnesota, while they’re 10 points ahead of the Philadelphia Union in the Supporters’ Shield race.

Another mind-blowing stat: they currently sit with a staggering +40 goal differential, 27 ahead of the next closest team in the league, which is Atlanta with +13.

Carlos Vela, the likely favorite for MVP this year, leads the team in both goals (23) and assists (15) and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. There’s plenty of talk about him breaking the regular season scoring record that Josef Martinez set last year with 31. Vela would only need eight to tie and nine to beat him, which seems highly plausible with 10 games left to play.

LAFC is sitting on three straight wins — and six wins in their last seven — after knocking off the New York Red Bulls last week at home by a score of 4-2, thanks to goals scored from four different players including Carlos Vela, Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey, and Latif Blessing.

The last time they visited Salt Lake in RSL’s 2018 home opener, they left here with all three points after a 5-1 beating, but of course that was a year and a half ago, and both teams look different now than they did back then. RSL has only lost two matches at home all year, and they’re unbeaten in their last eight straight at Rio Tinto Stadium.

LAFC has only lost three games all season, and they’ve all been on the road. Of course, they’ve also snagged a league-best seven road wins in the process.

Despite all this, a trip to Salt Lake doesn’t mean an automatic win for LAFC. We saw them lose on the road to Colorado back in June, so we know they’re not indestructible. RSL is in amazing form as of late, and if anyone’s going to topple the league giants again, they’re probably just the team to do it.

Absences

OUT: Javi Perez (ACL tear, out for season), Mohamed El-Munir (zygomatic arch fracture)
QUESTIONABLE: Alejandro Guido (quad strain), Pablo Sisniega (shoulder sprain)

Projected lineup

Miller; Beitashour, Zimmerman, Segura, Harvey; Kaye, Atuesta, Blessing; Vela, Diomande, Rossi


Match info

When: Saturday, August 17, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 85 degrees, clear skies (sunset at 8:19PM)

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

Referee: Baldomero Toledo