What RSL needs to do to win
Last time RSL and Austin faced off, one set of Austin substitutions brought down the whole RSL wall, with Austin FC coach Josh Wolff very much the victor on the occasion. Adjustments have not been RSL’s forte over the course of the season, and now, it must be put to the test.
Of course, there exists another possibility: RSL can execute in such a way that it’s easier to adjust. The big thing there is exactly what we witnessed against Portland: scoring goals. And, yeah, I know. I say “score goals” a lot. But it’s a massive thing this team has lacked, and I suspect we’re in our right mind to want that as fans.
Match details and forecast
- When: 1 p.m. Mountain Daylight
- Where: Austin, Texas
- Forecast: Sunny and in the mid-to-high 80s — a shame this game’s not on Monday, when it’ll be cooler and rainy.
Injuries and Absences
- Aaron Herrera is “questionable” with a calf injury (previously said “undisclosed” but the club made it official) but our reporting on the ground makes me think he’s extremely unlikely to play
- Damir Kreilach may be training with the team — at least in part — but playing is still a massive long shot. I’m calling him out, but the club says questionable.
- Bobby Wood remains out with an adductor injury. I previously wrote “abductor” by mistake. Please forgive me.
Quote of the Match
“When our backs are against the wall, the guys deliver. The game in LA was a fantastic performance to build on. To your point, it was a must-win situation at home in front of our fans, who have been waiting for that moment all year. It all came together at a perfect time. Really excited to be moving on.”
Predicted Lineup and Formation
Brody, Glad, Silva, Oviedo
Chang, Ruiz, Ojeda, Savarino
- Wed., Sep 14, 2022: Austin 3-0 Real Salt Lake
- Sat., May 14, 2022: Real Salt Lake 2-1 Austin
- Sat., Oct 2, 2021: Austin 2-1 Real Salt Lake
- Sat., Aug 14, 2021: Real Salt Lake 1-0 Austin
The Big Question
Can RSL’s midfield execute?
Against Portland Timbers, RSL was fortunate to play a team with a midfield that was significantly drained, first because of an illness that kept Diego Chara out of contention (and we know how valuable he can be for them), and then because Eryk Williamson was mysteriously just scythed from the lineup after being a near-constant.
That’s not to excuse Portland for the loss or imply that RSL “didn’t deserve” to win or anything of the sort, but it’s been clear to me for the past nine months that RSL struggles to execute, especially defensively, in the midfield. Remember earlier in the season when we kept talking about how Pablo Ruiz is one of the most dribbled-past players in the league? He’s dribbled past just over twice per 90 minutes on average. Well, Jasper Löffelsend is right there with him, dribbled past 1.99 times per 90, and Braian Ojeda is dribbled past 1.54 times per 90. That’s an indicator, for me, that it’s not a personnel issue — it’s an instruction issue.
And that’s also not to get too down on this team ahead of a playoff match, but this has been one of RSL’s great weaknesses over the course of the season, and Austin exploited it to near-perfection when last we faced them. It took an adjustment, but it gave them a 3-0 win with a 20-minute hat trick for Moussa Djitté.