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Will RSL rotate against Atlanta United?

It’s probably necessary — but should RSL do it now or later?

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

I think it’s clear by now that Real Salt Lake needs a win — they’ve now gone three games picking up just two points, and they have just two wins on the road all season.

Cue Wednesday, RSL vs. Atlanta United. A game they probably could win — a game against a team that has won four of their nine home games.

But it’s not that simple, and after RSL’s 2-2 collapse against Colorado Rapids, it was never going to be simple playing a mid-week match. There will be a feeling that a win is important, and that it’s better to get it sooner rather than later. There’s also the old adage, which I put some value in: You have to take it one game at a time.

Yes, Real Salt Lake faces Sporting Kansas City on Sunday in a return to home play. Yes, that match will also be important. But we’re not playing that match now, and as I see it, we have two options against Atlanta. We can either be competitive, or we can give up three points. Probably. You never know what will happen when you rotate, but for obvious reasons, rotation might prove a difficult . Let’s talk about those reasons, actually. Maybe they’re less obvious than I’m thinking, or maybe I’ll talk myself into an optimistic state as we go.

First up, injuries.

  • Bobby Wood and Damir Kreilach are obviously out.
  • Justen Glad might be out — he was last listed as “probable” in the injury report for Saturday, and given what we’ve seen without him, it might make sense to wait for him to return to full fitness lest we risk a longer setback.
  • Anderson Julio is probably out, given he went out with a quad injury (it appeared, at least) in the opening 15 minutes against Colorado.

Second, rotational needs.

  • Justin Meram has played a lot of minutes, and there was clearly an attempt to rotate him on Saturday that failed. He’s at 1,444 minutes, and he hasn’t played more than about 1,500 since 2017.
  • Marcelo Silva has been a near-constant figure, and he’s just 105 minutes from reaching his all-time minutes played for RSL in one regular season. (2021 saw him play 1,710 minutes; he’s at 1,605 now.)
  • Andrew Brody has played in every RSL match, missing just 74 minutes this season.
  • Sergio Cordova has started the last eight matches, playing at least 75 minutes in each of them (bar one, in which he played 74.)

It’s clear there are at least four players not beset by injury already that are in need of some rotation options, and if it’s not in this match, is it in the next one? All four of those are generally considered part of our essential starting lineup at this point, and risking any of them for a longer period out would at best be unwise.

Finally, some extracurricular concerns:

  • Jonathan Menendez is reportedly set for a loan to Velez, which would mean he’s not likely to play — why risk a player that’s about to leave? It just complicates things if he goes down with an injury, and we clearly never had real interest in trying to get him meaningful minutes on this team.
  • Everton Luiz is already gone, and while RSL has yet to confirm, his new club — SK Beveren — has confirmed it.

I think there are some clear options for rotation here. Here’s what I might do, from a projected lineup perspective.

  • MacMath — no rotation necessary here — it’s not like David Ochoa’s going to magically reappear
  • Holt, Orozco, Kablan — three at the back? Why not. Maybe we live to regret it. Does it matter?
  • Hidalgo, Caldwell, Besler, Schmitt — 3-4-2-1? You better believe it. Hidalgo hasn’t exactly been tearing it up with Real Monarchs, but nobody has been, and we need a right wing back option here that works. Caldwell and Besler are not an exciting midfield pair. Schmitt has been much better at left wing back or left midfield than he has been at left back, and I’d put him here for that reason. Also, rotation. Yeah.
  • Savarino, Luna — I dunno what else to do here. I like it, though.
  • Rubin — Do you have a better idea? I do not. But I like Rubio Rubin, and I think he’s not ideal in a 4-4-2.

But as I look deeper into things, I think we should consider that Jaziel Orozco won’t play in this one. We have two options: Rebuild the formation around that, or just slot in a different player there. Let’s put Johan Kappelhof at center back, then, but if you’re curious what I might do otherwise:

  • MacMath
  • Herrera, Kappelhof, Holt, Kablan
  • Caldwell, Besler, Luna
  • Savarino, Rubin, Schmitt

Don’t ask me to put this into a 4-4-2, because I don’t think I can do it without rotating players.

What do you think, though? I’m especially curious about lineup projections. I recognize I’m probably wrong on a lot of these things, but that’s not why I write about this stuff. It’s more that I like thinking about it and talking about it.