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Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake match preview

The season starts in earnest on Sunday.

SOCCER: JUL 31 MLS - Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo FC Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Real Salt Lake kicks off the 2022 campaign on Sunday against Houston Dynamo, a team roundly picked to finish around the bottom of the Western Conference.

But with RSL down a handful of important players — Aaron Herrera, Everton Luiz, Rubio Rubin, and potentially even Damir Kreilach — and without two of 2021’s top scorers in Anderson Julio and Albert Rusnak, the team will take on a certain shorthanded look.

What RSL needs to do to win

It’s simple, really. Real Salt Lake needs to score, and they need to score early. There’s a lot of pressure on both of these teams — it’s a season opener, after all — and it looks an awful lot like RSL will be down some important players. There will be a lot of weight resting on Bobby Wood’s shoulders in this one, but look for Jony Menendez to make his mark — that’s my hope, at least.

Quote of the Week

Pablo Mastroeni on RSL captain Damir Kreilach:

“He’s a winner. That’s why he’s the captain of this group, and that’s why he’s been such a successful player throughout his career. Off the field, nice guy — one of the nicest people I’ve come across, and one of the most giving people. However, when you step across those lines, he transforms this guy that holds himself to such a high level that he doesn’t allow his teammates to drop. His ability to communicate and really hold everyone accountable then has the next guy doing the same to the next guy, and it creates this synergy across the group that’s contagious. He’s a great leader, and he holds himself to a high standard and expects everybody to do the same”

Source: ESPN700 interview by Bill Riley with Pablo Mastroeni

Injuries and Absences

  • Aaron Herrera will be out after receiving a red card in RSL’s Western Conference Final loss to Portland Timbers.
  • Rubio Rubin is likely out after a preseason surgery that led to him missing preseason.
  • Nick Besler is also out, owing to a facial injury sustained last season. Sounds rough, if we’re being honest.
  • David Ochoa’s injury in preseason may set him back for the start of the season — he’s listed as “questionable” in the official match report.
  • Damir Kreilach is likely listed as “questionable,” but I do sort of wonder if he’s less questionable than Ochoa. I’m a blogger, not a doctor.
  • Everton Luiz “won’t be available, more than likely, unless something changes quickly” per Pablo Mastroeni on ESPN 700.
  • Johan Kappelhof is not yet fit, per Mastroeni in the above interview.
  • Out, but way less likely to play, are Zack Farnsworth and Axel Kei.

Scoreline Predictions

I think disappointments will come after this game, and we’ll beat Houston Dynamo 1-0 on a late goal. Why? I don’t know. Houston is apparently quite bad. I relish that idea.

Predicted Lineup and Formation

(4-3-2-1): Ochoa; Brody Glad, Silva, Schmitt; Ruiz, Caldwell; Cordova, Menendez, Chang Wood

  • Tate Schmitt is almost a lock to play after Mastroeni said basically that on the radio
  • Caldwell is the only reasonable option in the midfield alongside Pablo Ruiz, especially with Everton Luiz and Nick Besler out of the lineup
  • I’ve pegged Maikel Chang as the likely starter here, but only because it sounds like Sergio Cordova isn’t fully fit, and we need at least one player up top to be succesful.
  • Mastroeni did say that the team needs Cordova on the field if they’re going to be successful, which speaks to some tactical intention there.
  • Missing Damir Kreilach would be disappointing, and it’s not something the club has handled well in the past two years. He’s a big part of our strategy, in part because he has a nose for goal, and in part because half our strategy appears to be sending long balls for him to head down.

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