Since interim head coach Freddy Juarez look the reigns four games ago, the team has taken 10 of a possible 12 points in that time. They’ve allowed just two goals and scored eight. Now the team will be put to the test as they host LAFC, who are miles ahead of anyone in MLS on points. Can their improved performance standup to LAFC?
A brief but fierce history
When LAFC entered the league in 2018, they were an unknown quantity. They were scrambling to fill out their roster, but had a good coach and some good players. Their first game was away to Seattle, which was a narrow 1-0 victory for the new club that saw an early Rossi goal and a late red card for the Sounders. It was hard to draw too many conclusions from that game. Until they came to Salt Lake.
It was RSL’s home opener. They’d finished 2017 by missing the playoffs on just a point or two, but had been extremely good in the backend of the season. Plata scored first in the 20th minute, and RSL looked a bit shaky but had the lead. Then LAFC put five past Rimando to give Real their worst ever home defeat. There would be some validation in 2018 after a two Kreilach goals, including the incredible “karate kid” goal, and an LAFC own goal put RSL through in the playoffs.
Earlier in the season, Real Salt Lake were very unfortunate to not get a point in LA after a red card and a bizarre deflection. That game should give RSL fans some hope. LAFC do concede goals, and of late, RSL have been scoring goals. RSL’s backline has also been very solid lately and if they can shut down LAFC’s attack, Real will have a decent chance.
RSL is going to be up against Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and co. If you’re not aware, Vela leads the league in both goals and assists, as well as chief receiver of Zlatan insults, which is an incredible list of feats. This will be a major test for RSL’s backline, especially given they just played on Wednesday. In that game, the team was incredible. Nedum had five blocks that helped RSL keep the Sounders from registering a single shot on goal.
Seattle didn’t play particularly well. It was a surprise for Jordan Morris to not start. LAFC will be a different beast. They’re better than anyone else, with only three losses in 2019. This will mean the whole team will need to contribute to the defensive effort.
RSL’s center forward is back. He’s almost certainly start in this game and his speed and finishing ability will be very needed again LAFC. When he’s on the field, there’s always a possibility that he’ll get in behind, often running onto a ball over the top and he’s in on goal. That helps the whole team because he can pounce at any moment. He’s had two goals that came from long balls from Aaron Herrera, with the outside back seeing a possibility and Sam able to get on the ball, fight off defenders, and finish. That’s a huge asset to the team, and not something we’ve seen from an RSL player in a long while. Watch how Sam positions himself and how he both makes runs and draws defenders away from other attackers.
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Beltran (knee; 3/15/19)
Besler (foot; 8/10/19)