Real Salt Lake took a point on the road to Orlando in their season opener last weekend. New York Red Bulls won 3-2 over a very poor Cincinnati side in a dramatic game that saw RBNY take all three points at home. With RSL hosting, and likely more players fit, we could see a very different lineup than the starting XI in Orlando. New York should be a much more challenging team for RSL and with guys getting back to full fitness and the return of Everton Luiz, Real will be much more competitive.
RSL are fortunate to have very few injuries, and only Sam Johnson and Kyle Beckerman are listed as out for the team. That doesn’t mean all players are 90 minutes fit. We saw a less than ideal starting XI against Orlando, and while that crew certainly deserves credit for getting a result on road, it’s probably not the team anyone would put out if all players are healthy.
I don’t think we’ll see a huge change in who’s fit and who isn’t over last week. From what I can tell, in addition to Johnson and Beckerman, the following players may not be fully fit: Baird, Chang, Martínez, Meram, and Rossi. That’s a lot of attacking talent that can’t go a full game.
Justin Meram and Giuseppe Rossi are the two players most needed on the field, both of whom subbed in during the second half last weekend. It’s more likely that Meram start in this game, and frankly hoping that Rossi is able to start after being without a club for a year and a half is probably not realistic. If Meram starts, that’s a huge improvement over the 20 or so minutes he had in the season opener.
Jefferson Savarino’s replacement, Jeizon Ramírez, arrived late last week and could see minutes in this game. Head coach Freddy Juarez confirmed that Ramírez would be in the 18, but it’s not clear if he’ll start or not. If he doesn’t, ideally either Chang or Baird are able to start.
15 minutes of impressive play
The last 15 minutes against Orlando, Real looked good. They pressed and were able to control the game. Justen Glad had been subbed out (from right back) and Baird replaced him, allowing Herrera to move from right wing to right back. That gave the defense much more semblance of what RSL used last year.
That backline is going to be foundational for everything the team wants to do on the field. With Rimando retiring, there’s no one else on the team that can play at his same level. MacMath came up big a number of times, with two saves and ultimately the clean sheet.
If we see one or two more of those attacking guys start, and have Herrera and Glad in their preferred positions, then RSL should look more like that final 15 minutes than the rest of the 90 against Orlando. Can you bring the same attack and energy against a better side like RBNY?
We’re back at Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time this decade and we’re just happy to be here. It’s a strangely early kickoff for a home opener (noon), but who doesn’t want to have their Saturday night free? There were some key changes around the stadium, such as new concessions (including wings!) and a new stadium bar.
There is now a tifo pulley system for the south end, which should help The Riot to step up their tifo. game. There is no tifo planned for this weekend, but be sure to watch for that in the future.
Overall, what’s the experience going to be like for this game? Will attendance numbers be high and will there be good atmosphere? Rio Tinto has been a fortress for a long time, with a few dips, but that fan atmosphere is part of what makes being at the Riot so special.