It’s been three
years weeks since we saw Real Salt Lake in action, and tonight they’re back at the RioT to take on fellow Utah team the Vancouver Whitecaps. It’s been a busy international break for RSL, with Bobby Wood, Jony Menendez, and Toni Datković have all joined the club, though the latter two have not arrived in Salt Lake yet. With a fully healthy roster, this game could see a strong RSL.
The arrival of Bobby Wood to Real Salt Lake is a big move. The fact that Elliot Fall and co. were able to bring in the signings they’ve completed this year have been some incredible work. Though Wood is healthy, it is unlikely he starts. That’s fine. RSL isn’t hurting for attacking players, but we should see him come on as a sub. He’s a player that may take some time to integrate, but he’s played at so many clubs at a higher level that we could adapt quickly. His time on the field will likely be the most interesting part of the game.
For the first time in a long time, there’s some real congestion and competition around those attacking places. I’m curious to see if there is a kind of knock-on effect of Wood’s arrive with other attackers working just a little bit harder to prove they should start.
Home team vs home team
While Vancouver isn’t actually a home team, it’s as close to it as you can get in these circumstances. They’ve been housed here in Utah (specifically the old Utah Royals locker room) since the start of the 2021 MLS season and have played all their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium. This is due to restrictions around travel to and from Canada due to COVID-19.
The crowd will be overwhelmingly in support of RSL, the Whitecaps should still feel at home and that could help the Canadian team do well. They have struggled, earning only 7 points from 7 games (RSL is on 9 points from 6 games).
The Rusnak question
I don’t want to beat this topic to death, but I can’t escape how impactful Rusnak is on RSL. By his own admission, he’s just suffered the biggest disappointment of his career when he was left the Slovakia roster for the Euros. His form with RSL has not been great, either. Certainly not up to what we have seen from him in the past. Then question then becomes how he responds to that disappointment. He could continue to struggle, or it may serve as motivation to take control of games and help run the team. Tonight will be a fascinating look into his response.