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Match preview: Major playoff implications as RSL travels to face New England

Real Salt Lake, with just four games left, heads out on the road to take on the New England Revolution in a weekend that could see them potentially climb as high as third place, or drop as low as eighth place with the playoffs just weeks away.

MLS: New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

With only four games left in the regular season, and seven points separating second and eight place in the west, Real Salt Lake will look for a huge three points as they head out on the road to take on the New England Revolution this weekend.

Not that history will tell us a lot about what will happen in this game, but RSL definitely has the upper hand over the Revs throughout the last 15 years, logging 10 wins, six losses, and five draws. Four of those wins have come on the road at Gillette Stadium.

These two teams have produced some of the craziest score lines, including that 6-0 drubbing RSL put down on New England at home back in 2009, followed by a 5-0 win at home the very next season. Of course the results have also swung the other way, which include the last two meetings at Gillette Stadium that both ended up in 4-0 wins for New England.

The last time they met, though, was in October of 2018 at Rio Tinto Stadium when RSL came out with a 4-1 win, thanks to three first-half goals from Nick Besler, Bofo Saucedo, and Corey Baird. Damir Kreilach added a fourth goal in the 50th minute, while former Revs midfielder Kelyn Rowe scored New England’s lone goal in the 67th.

This time, there’s more than just pride on the line — this game has fairly huge playoff implications for both teams.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 14-12-4 (46 points)
Table: 4th place (west)
Points per game: 1.53
Most goals: Albert Rusnak (10)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (5), Damir Kreilach (5), Albert Rusnak (5)
Clean sheets: 10
Form: LWLWL

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

After a 3-1 loss on the road to Minnesota United, RSL needs to bounce back and get a result at New England. Sure, they sit in fourth place right now, but they’re only three points ahead of eighth-place Portland Timbers, and a loss combined with the right results from their Western Conference foes could see them fall all the way below the playoff line into eighth place. Let’s take a look at the table relevant to RSL with only four games left to play.

Western Conference Table, Matchday 31

Rank Team Points Played Wins Goals Differential
Rank Team Points Played Wins Goals Differential
2 Seattle 50 31 14 50 3
3 Minnesota 48 30 14 49 9
4 Real Salt Lake 46 30 14 42 4
5 LA Galaxy 45 30 14 49 0
6 San Jose 44 30 13 49 3
7 Dallas 44 31 12 47 5
8 Portland 43 30 13 44 1

I can’t remember the last time a playoff race has been this close. One slip up from any team could result in them missing out on the postseason, and I have a feeling Decision Day is going to be a rollercoaster.

Here are the matches this weekend relevant to RSL’s playoff positioning:

Saturday, September 21
1:30pm — Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes
5:30pm — New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake
8:30pm — LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact

Sunday, September 22
1:55pm — Portland Timbers v. Minnesota United
4:00pm — FC Dallas v. New York City FC
6:00pm — DC United v. Seattle Sounders

With a full slate, and all but one of those clubs facing off against Eastern Conference opponents, the standings could look very different by Sunday night.

An RSL win could potentially see them back in third place, but as we mentioned before, a loss could drop them all the way to eighth depending on the results of those other games.

Assuming everyone stays healthy and Freddy Juarez is able to field a lineup similar to last week’s game, we should see a pretty strong starting XI at Gillette Stadium. Of course, the turnaround is a quick one as RSL hosts the LA Galaxy next Wednesday, but at this point in the season, with so much on the line, there’s no reason to hold back and I’m sure the players will be leaving everything they have out on the field.

Absences

OUT:
Jordan Allen (knee; out for season)
Nick Besler (foot)

QUESTIONABLE:
Luke Mulholland (hamstring)

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

Nick Besler, Everton Luiz

Projected lineup

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

New England Revolution

Record: 10-10-10 (40 points)
Table: 7th place (eest)
Points per game: 1.33
Most goals: Carles Gil (9)
Most assists: Carles Gil (13)
Clean sheets: 4
Form: DWDLD

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Revs are in a similar situation — they’re currently just above the playoff line in seventh place with 40 points, but Montreal (37), Chicago (37), Orlando (36), and Columbus (34) are hot on their trail. A win wouldn’t see New England move up in the table, as the sixth-place Red Bulls are four points ahead, but a loss could easily see them drop out of the playoff picture if Montreal were to get a win on the road over the LA Galaxy.

Looking at their roster, there are two players that stand out above the rest — Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou — who have both been massive in their first season in MLS.

The Revs picked up Gil in the offseason from Spanish side Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña, but he comes with an impressive pedigree that saw him play at Aston Villa and Valencia. He’s been huge for New England this year, notching nine goals and 13 assists in 27 appearances, dominating the attacking stats for his side.

Argentinian attacker Gustavo Bou came mid-season with a July signing and made an immediate impact, notching a goal in his first appearance. Since coming aboard with Bruce Arena’s side, he’s tallied seven goals and one assist in only 10 games.

Hot and cold

It’s been a year of ups and downs for New England in a season that saw them win only two of their first 12 matches, which ultimately resulted in the sacking of coach Brad Friedel. They immediately announced the hiring of Bruce Arena as the new head coach and sporting director, and then went on an 11-game unbeaten streak, climbing their way up the table over a two-and-a-half-month period.

Since that streak ended with a 2-0 loss to LAFC, they’ve managed to only go 1-2-4 for a grand total of seven points.

Now it’s crunch time, like it is for so many other teams with their postseason hopes on the line, and they’ve got to figure out a way to get results. Hopefully for us, they won’t figure it out this weekend.

Absences

OUT:
Edgar Castillo (rib)

QUESTIONABLE:
-none-

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

Andrew Farrell, Carles Gil

Projected lineup

Turner; Bye, Farrell, Delamea, Jones; Gil, Zahibo, L Caicedo, Penilla; J Caicedo, Bou


Match info

When: Saturday, September 21, 2019, 5:30PM MT

Where: Gillette Stadium — Foxborough, MA

Weather: 73 degrees, clear

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

Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referees: Jeffrey Greeson, Claudiu Badea
Fourth Official: David Barrie
Video Assistant Referee: Jorge Gonzalez