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Real Salt Lake vs. Nashville SC match preview

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MLS: Nashville SC at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Having played three matches in the 2022 season, Real Salt Lake has cut an exciting figure.

Wins over New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders, both of which took place in a tremendous amount of snow, are providing a memorable opening set of games. But with no snow on the forecast — and with potentially 11 players missing — does RSL have enough firepower to get past a defense-first Nashville SC?

What RSL needs to do to win

Simply put, they need to figure out how to attack. Nashville SC has been one the most defensively staunch teams in the league in the last year, and they managed to maintain that consistency throughout the totality of the season. Expect more of that on Saturday, but we do have one glimmer of hope on our side.

See, Nashville is in the fourth game of what amounts to an eight-game road trip, and that has to be tiring. No team is built to always play away from home. They’re only halfway through that, and if we can bring an attacking mindset into the game — along with some positive execution — I think we might have a good opportunity on our hands. Still, everything’s pointing at an uphill battle here, especially if you read beyond this section into “Injuries and Absences.”

Injuries and Absences

Out

  • Gavin Beavers is “on assignment with Real Monarchs” but he’s also injured, so, yeah.
  • Nick Besler is still out. I saw him in the stadium last home match. His face was still attached. That’s good news.
  • Jeff Dewsnup is also “on assignment” but also “injured,” so you do the math there. That’s our second goalkeeper on the list.
  • Zack Farnsworth is still out. I think I also saw him in the stadium last home match. I dunno. At least that gives me a sense that he does, in fact, exist.
  • Bret Halsey is also out. Something about his right ankle.
  • David Ochoa finally made it to the “OUT” column, which is probably good because we know he’s out and not going to play. It’s not looking good, is it? He was listed as questionable last time around.

“Questionable” but out

So, uh, RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said the players who missed last weekend would probably miss this weekend. Again. So that’s fun!

  • Aaron Herrera? Don’t count on him returning. Out.
  • Damir Kreilach is still questionable with a left calf issue. He’s out, per Mastroeni on the radio.
  • Rubio Rubin is also questionable with a left groin concern. See above.

Truly Questionable

  • Maikel Chang is questionable under concussion protocol. If there’s any question about it, I’d advocate for holding him out. Brains are, as you would expect, very important.
  • Sergio Cordova has made the list! Good for him. Wait. Bad for him. Bad for us. Anyway, he’s questionable with a right knee concern.

On Assignment with Real Monarchs

This is a new section in the match preview from RSL Communications, and it’s an entirely welcome one. Beavers and Dewsnup are both listed here, but we know from other reporting that they’ve been injured, so I’ve included them as “out” — if they weren’t, I’d hope we’d see one of them on the bench.. The others there:

  • Julio Benitez
  • Axel Kei — although I remember also hearing an injury report about Kei. Anyone have a better recollection here than me?
  • Jude Wellings

Graduating off of the injured list

  • Zac MacMath was questionable last time. He is not questionable this time. Great! Unfortunately, he’s the only player to have his name listed from the list.

Quote of the Match

I’ve got two quotes for you, both from RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni’s appearance on the Bill Riley show this week.

On injuries and returns this week:

I think we’re pretty much where we were. We’re making progress, but as far as actual minutes, I don’t foresee that happening. Looks like it’s going to be pretty much the same group, minus one or two depending on how (Maikel) Chang comes through with his concussion protocol. I think we’re a little shorthanded, but that hasn’t been an excuse to this point.

The guys are fired up. Yesterday was a fantastic day of training. It got chippy, and for me, it’s really important as a coach. A lot of times when things are going well for you, you can kind of sit back and rest on your laurels a bit and think it’s going to happen again. But the way the guys approached training (Tuesday) was fantastic for me to see.

RILEY: How do you walk the fine line between chippy and too much?

We talked a little about that in training, and after training. What I said is, the intensity’s great, it’s gotta be done in the right way. It’s gotta be about winning the ball back. It can’t be about trying to go in on a tackle that’s reckless and endangering a teammate, because at that point, we’re losing focus on what we’re trying to achieve. We’re trying to create a competitive environment where it’s about winning the ball, and at times, it’s going to be a lot of body contact. But what we don’t is malicious tackles and getting to the ground — staying on your feet, defending the right way. And if there’s body contact, as there was (Tuesday), that’s a part of the game, and it’s really important that we have that, but all the while looking out for our teammates as well.

Predicted Lineup and Formation

Assuming we have enough players to play in the match, here’s what it could look like:

3-4-3
MacMath
Holt, Glad, Silva
Brody, Ruiz, Caldwell, Schmitt
Meram, Wood, Menendez

Bench: Tomas Gomez (GK), Bode Davis, Chris Garcia, Johan Kappelhof, Everton Luiz

Those are all the healthy players! Maybe we also see Sergio Cordova in the mix? Or maybe Maikel Chang will pass concussion protocol?) What a time to be alive.

Big Questions

I’ll be honest. I don’t have any big questions aside from “what happens?” — see, I’ve been pessimistic about RSL so far this season, and we have two wins and a draw under our belt. That’s much better than I expected. Like, way better. But we also had two snow games in that period — the ones we won, obviously — and we had a very boring, very disconcerting draw to open the season. But this is a home match, and we should be good at home. If we have enough players to play, that is.