It’s been four long months since we last saw Real Salt Lake lining up for a game. That match was a 1-1 draw against New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium, and while they did not pickup all three points, they did show a good deal of promise. For their first game of the MLS Is Back tournament, they play against their old foes, Colorado Rapids. The Rapids, who have been bad at soccer since their 2010 MLS Cup win, have made some promising moves and could very well be a decent team in 2020. How will each team fight through the rust and who comes out ahead?
RSL’s longtime captain was injured at the start of the season, so him not playing in the midfield was a non-issue. But it’s hard to know where the 38 year old fits into the lineup. Real’s best midfield would have Luiz in the six, Kreilach at the eight, and Rusnak at the ten. We’ve seen Kreilach play at nine/false nine position over the past two years, and while it’s worked in a pinch, if Giuseppe Rossi, Sam Johnson, and Douglas Martínez are all available (in that order) for the center forward role, Damir has to move. And there’s no way a healthy Damir doesn’t play. This seems to displace Beckerman more than anyone else.
A Nedum-less backline
Nedum Onuoha was the only player from RSL who opted out from the tournament. It’s a decision he made with the support of his teammates and an understandable choice, but it’s a loss non-the-less. Nedum is a leader on that backline, and a very skilled player within the league. The depth at center back is fairly good, with Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva having been a proved partnership, and young Erik Holt impressing in his time on the backline for both RSL and the Monarchs.
Center forward and right wing
To round out a discussion of each part of the team now that we’ve covered the defense and midfield, let’s talk about the attack. Thanks to the shutdown, RSL has a healthy Giuseppe Rossi and Sam Johnson. One of those two should start at center forward, ideally with the other subbing in as one of the five allowed substitutes. If Damir starts as the CB, something is wrong.
Justin Meram is sure to start on the left wing, and it’s between Corey Baird and Jeizon Ramírez for who gets the start on the right. Baird can play on either side, so he may be saved to sub in. Ramírez has only played a few minutes for RSL, but showed a lot of energy and promise. He might not get a start today, but it would be fascinating to get a more meaningful look at the young Venezuelan.
Christopher Garcia (non soccer injury)
David Ochoa (right thumb)