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Match preview: Real Salt Lake kicks off MLS Is Back Tournament against Colorado Rapids

RSL will face off against rivals Colorado Rapids in the first of three group stage matches in the MLS is Back Tournament.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are. The time has come for RSL’s first competitive match in four months since the pandemic effectively shut down all MLS play in mid-March. The MLS is Back Tournament is in full swing in Orlando, although two teams have already been forced to drop out as both FC Dallas and Nashville SC’s positive COVID-19 cases reached the double digits.

Assuming the tournament will play out in its entirety, RSL has at least three matches to play in the group stage, with a potential of four more games to follow should they make it all the way to the final.

Lumped together in what’s being called this tourney’s “group of death,” RSL will face off against three other teams in Minnesota United, Colorado Rapids, and Sporting Kansas City in Group D. First up? The Colorado Rapids.

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake traveled to Orlando with a nearly-full strength squad, minus Nedum Onuoha, who opted out of the tournament to stay with his family. Aside from that, coach Freddy Juarez should have his pick of anyone he likes for the starting lineup. There have been no positive COVID-19 cases reported from the RSL squad yet.

After four long months, it’s hard to say who Freddy will play in what positions. For both of the first two games, Damir Kreilach got the start up top as the lone striker, while Zac MacMath started in goal, and Onuoha and Marcelo Silva served as the center backs. Obviously with Onuoha out of the squad for this tournament, we can probably expect to see Justen Glad get the start next to Silva.

Among the rest of the players, Freddy should also have Jeizon Ramirez available. Being his first season with RSL, he only made one appearance in the first two games of the season, coming off the bench to log two minutes. RSL fans have been anxious to see what Ramirez can do, so time will tell if we get to see much of him in Orlando.

Colorado Rapids

Colorado had a scare as they had to delay their departure to Orlando due to positive COVID-19 tests of their own. They were scheduled to leave on July 5th, but made the decision to delay their travel plans after they received two positive test results.

Robin Fraser’s side was off to a solid start this season, as they went into the break with a record of 2-0-0, after toppling both D.C. United and Orlando City SC with scores of 2-1. Although it’s four months later, they’ll look to build off that strong start and earn some crucial points in the group stage.

The top two finishers in each group will move onto the knockout rounds, as well as the four best third-place teams overall. If Colorado wants a chance of getting out, they’ll almost certainly need to secure at least a point against RSL on Sunday.

Match info

When: Sunday, July 12 at 8:30PM MT

Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports, Orlando, FL

Broadcast: ESPN