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What we’re watching in San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake

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RSL face the Quakes in their first game of the knockout round

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Real Salt Lake are taking on a high-flying San Jose Earthquakes in tonight’s MLS Is Back matchup. The Quakes have won their last two games, and drew against Seattle in their opening game of the MLS Is Back tournament. MSLSoccer.com describes them as a cinderella story of the tournament, and that’s not an unfair assessment of this team.

RSL’s group stage games were a mixed bag with one win, one draw, and one loss. It’s not particularly encouraging that the results went from good to bad over those three games, but the team showed some quality in each game.

An interesting side note, in the all time series between these two teams, RSL have won 11 games, San Jose have also won 11, and they’ve drawn 11 times. There’s a joke about a best 11 somewhere here.

Goals

The biggest question for this Real Salt Lake team is goals. They have not scored a goal since their first game of the tournament. That’s a massive problem. RSL have a lot of attacking talent, but they’re simply not producing. 70% of the team’s shots came from outside the box in their last game, which means they’re less likely to score from that distance. RSL simply must be better about getting into good positions to score, but with only three shots on target in the last two games, we’re not seeing that. Watch to see how RSL connects to their attacking players and if they’re able to position themselves in dangerous areas with the ball.

Substitution Patters

RSL’s substitution patterns have been puzzling over the last several years. The team often waits until late in the game and often brings on players with little time to have a meaningful impact on the game. In their game against Minnesota, Rusnak was replaced in the first half, but the team didn’t make another substitution until the 79th minute until they took out Baird and Martinez for Chang and Johnson. The next sub was also a double in the 90’+2’, bringing Besler and Rossi on. At that point in the game, there’s little any of those four players can do to get into the came and try to win it.

Against Sporting Kansas City, things were much better with a halftime sub, two subs at 64’, one at 71’, and the final sub at 77’. That gives those players enough time to settle in and impact the game. Despite that game being their first loss of 2020, it’s a sign of growth if players are subbed on earlier.

Injury Report

Out: Christopher Garcia (non soccer injury), David Ochoa (right thumb)

Questionable: Albert Rusnak (left hip)

Unavailable: Nedum Onuoha

Predicted Lineup