Houston Dynamo have already been eliminated from the 2019 MLS playoffs, but should Real Salt Lake win tonight, they’ll secure their playoff spot. At the end of 2018, RSL was the only team not to play on decision day. After RSL’s last regular season game, they were barely ahead of the LA Galaxy, but fell to the Timbers in Portland. Kyle Beckerman told RSL Soapbox that they’d be watching the LAG vs. Houston game and would be the biggest Dynamo fans in the world. Houston came back from being down in LA to win and keep RSL in the playoffs. This time, RSL needs a Houston loss to secure their post-season place. But the story of this game is more than just making the playoffs.
The greatest keeper in MLS history is set to retire in just a few games. This is likely to be hist last game at Rio Tinto Stadium. Nick Rimando has been the team’s starting keeper since joining Real in 2007. His career highlights include the following:
Two Supporters Shields (2001 & 2006)
Two MLS Cups (2004 & 2009)
MLS Cup MVP (2009)
Six MLS All-Star Appearances (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019)
Two MLS Saves of the Year (2012 & 2013)
He also holds the league record for most shutouts, most appearances, most wins, and most saves. It’s fairly safe to say it will be a while before the league sees another player of Rimando’s caliber.
Unless RSL jumps into a top four spot, they won’t have a home playoff game. That means this is likely the last time RSL fans will see Rimando play at Rio Tinto. It’s the end of an era. If you’re paying attention to anything tonight, Rimando should be your focus.
In order to get RSL’s best attacking players on the field, we see a few players out of their ideal positions. This is most evident with Albert Rusnak, who has seen time at left wing rather than at attacking midfield. Jefferson Savarino is 100% a right winger, and he does well in that spot. Jefferson has provided 5 assists on top of this 7 goals. Kreilach has 5 goals and 5 assists. I’m still not entirely sure if he’s better as a false 9, a number 10, or a midfielder. The last key attacking player is Sam Johnson. The Liberian has 9 goals but hasn’t scored since August 14th. Johnson played very well early on in his time with Real, but there’s been a bit of a drop-off in his production. He’s a player that relies on good service in order to score. He isn’t great at dribbling past defenders the way Sava is, but his finishing is excellent. Can his teammates get him the ball in effective positions?
Win and their in
A fair compliant about RSL’s performances is that they’ve played extremely well at times, but haven’t taken care of business at home, i.e. against the LA teams. A win against Houston means they’re in the playoffs, and that’s what matters most. A few wins and some results go their way and they can host a home playoff game, which could be absolutely crucial to them making a deep playoff run. Can RSL get it done against an already defeated Dynamo?
Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)
Beltran (knee; 3/15/19)
Besler (foot; 8/10/19)
Mulholland (back; 8/22/19)
Martinez (hamstring; 9/18/19)