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Match preview: RSL faces Minnesota in second game of tournament

RSL has a chance to punch their ticket to the knockout stage with a win over Minnesota and a little help from Colorado and SKC.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake continues play in the MLS is Back Tournament by facing off against Minnesota United on Friday night. Coming off a big 2-0 win against the Colorado Rapids, They’ll will look to build on that momentum as they hope to stay atop Group D with a win over the Loons.

RSL could secure their spot in the knockout round with a win over Minnesota as the top two finishers will advance out of the group stage. They’d need a little help from Sporting Kansas City and Colorado, who kick off the evening’s double header. If that game ends in a draw or a Colorado win, then RSL would punch their ticket out of the group stage with a win over Minnesota. If the earlier game ends with an SKC victory, then it’ll all come down to the final games in Group D on July 22nd.

Loons on a roll

Minnesota has yet to lose this season, although to be fair that only includes three games. Before the COVID-19 suspension, MNUFC was off to a flying start with big road wins over the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes, while securing a win in stoppage time over Sporting Kansas City in the opening game of the tournament. SKC was leading heading into stoppage time, but an own goal from Khiry Shelton in the 92’ followed by another goal in the 97’ from Kevin Molino secured the late victory for the Loons in the dying moments.

Of course, one of the biggest storylines for Minnesota coming into this tournament is the absence of stalwart defender Ike Opara, who already had two goals in their 5-2 win over the Earthquakes back in March. Opara withdrew from the tournament due to a “preexisting condition” that was apparently not COVID-related, but coach Adrian Heath has since mentioned that Opara could join the rest of the team after the group stage is over, should they end up advancing.

Midfielder Ozzie Alonso was also held out of Minnesota’s game despite not being listed on the official injury report, but it remains to be seen whether Heath will deem him fit to play against RSL this weekend.

RSL at full strength

Good news for Real Salt Lake as they don’t have anyone on their injury list aside from Christopher Garcia (undisclosed injury) and David Ochoa (right thumb). Freddy Juarez will have the full team available for this match, and he’ll hope to start this one off with the same energy they held against Colorado.

Thanks to goals from Damir Kreilach and Albert Rusnak, RSL secured their first win of the year after kicking off the the 2020 season with two draws against Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls at the beginning of March.

Minnesota holds a slight edge in the series over the last five meetings between the sides, with two wins that both came at home. RSL hasn’t come out on top of Minnesota since June of 2017 when they squeaked out a 1-0 win at home. The two games at Rio Tinto Stadium since then have ended in a 1-1 draw.

This may end up being the most important game of the group stage for RSL, but they’ll hope to come out on top, poised for a first-place finish as they look toward their last game against SKC.

Match info

When: Friday, July 17, 8:30PM MT

Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports — Orlando, FL

Weather: 80 degrees, partly cloudy, 15% chance of rain

Broadcast: ESPN, ESPN Deportes