Real Salt Lake coach Pablo Mastroeni is feeling confident about his club’s chances in a must-win match on Sunday, with RSL taking place in another must-win Decision Day match.
“We’ve fought hard the whole season to put ourselves in this position,” he told ESPN700’s Bill Riley. “I think it’s a better position than we were in last year, when we had to go away to get the win. We know exactly what we have to do, we have the fans behind us.”
Mastroeni, in his first full year as coach, has led RSL to what’s currently an 8th place position, with results potentially sending the club as high as 6th place and as low as 10th place. A win against Portland Timbers, sitting in 6th place with 46 points to RSL’s 44, would lift RSL to a finish above the opposition. Anything but would see RSL unable to move into a playoff position.
The RSL coach, who seems to prefer a 4-4-2 for the club, based solely on what’s been used most frequently, is predicting at least some rotation to the starting lineup.
“There might be a couple changes to the starting XI,” he said. “The most important thing about Portland is they’re a team willing to concede possession. They’re really looking for the counterattack. Our shape behind our possession is critical to snuff it out and keep them off the board, because they’re a really dynamic team.”
RSL is no stranger to late-season theatrics, with the club squeaking into a playoff position on the final match of the season against Sporting Kansas City in 2021. That match saw an obvious handball against Real Salt Lake not called, and the following play saw Damir Kreilach score a last-gasp winner.
Further quotes follow.
We’ve fought hard the whole season to put ourselves in this position. I think it’s a better position than we were in last year, when we had to go away to get the win. We know exactly what we have to do, we have the fans behind us.
We’re (looking to) build off the performance in LA. I think it was a disciplined performance, we had a couple chances there at the end to win it. We’ve got to make sure we’re prepared and execute and understand that we control our own destiny. That’s the most important thing.
You come to these games, and it’s serious, you know what’s at stake. There’s a lot at stake. I think the most important thing is to be operating from a place inside. It’s autopilot. Not overthinking things. Doing what you do and doing it well.
There might be a couple changes to the starting XI. The most important thing about Portland is they’re a team willing to concede possession. They’re really looking for the counterattack. Our shape behind our possession is critical to snuff it out and keep them off the board, because they’re a really dynamic team.
It’s really interesting. A big conduit to that has been the addition of the two (Bryan/Braian)s and finding positions that fit them while keeping guys like Aaron Herrera and Brody on the field that have really had a good end to the season, along with Marcelo and Glad. That setup suits us well from that perspective, and it gives us a little more security playing against teams with two up front, dynamic players, to have an extra player back there. Depending on the game, I think having a four could also be conducive to what we do, having wingers as well to really stretch their back three into a back five and create more space in the wide areas in midfield to really exploit. I think the good thing about a season is it allows you to play in different formations, different setups with different players. Now, it comes to this game where you can utilize all that information to start the game a certain way, but be flexible tactically to make the changes you need to really go after it.
(On the work rate of Andrew Brody and Jasper Löffelsend) It’s a part of our identity. We’ve got to be the hardest working team on the field. That’s something that’s put us in this position, and I think those two players exemplify that. Herrera’s different — he won’t cover as much distance, but his high-speed running will always be top-two.