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LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake: Three Questions

What’s going on with the team that last beat LAFC?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake
Onuoha has been a key defender for RSL.
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday, hoping to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. RSL are coming off a tough loss to D.C. United. How are things these days for the claret and cobalt? We spoke to Lucas Muller of SB Nation’s Real Salt Lake site RSL Soapbox about his team. Many thanks to Lucas for taking the time to answer my questions!

Angels on Parade asks RSL Soapbox:

1. RSL are steady to start the season, with a win, draw and loss apiece. How have the opening weeks of the season been from an RSL perspective?

The start feels better this season than it did in 2018, even though the results are almost exactly the same with a 1-1 draw in Texas, 1-0 win at home, and then a 5-1 loss to LAFC. The end of 2017 had expectation so high around the club and that LAFC home loss (worst ever home defeat for RSL) dashed those hopes in a painful way. This season there is a more cautious optimism around the team. Last week’s 5-0 loss in D.C. was far from ideal, but in a game where you get two reds and a penalty called against you, it’s difficult to draw season impacting conclusions.

RSL’s defense has improved over last season, even if the offseason moves didn’t include any major defensive changes. Nedum Onuoha, who was brought in late last summer, is a former Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers captain who plays at center back. Brooks Lennon and Aaron Herrera have both improved as outside backs as well, so we’re seeing a backline that knows one another well. Now, Justen Glad being injured and Marcelo Silva is on a red, so that means some big changes on the backline this Saturday.

2. One of the struggles for RSL in recent years has been scoring. Who is scoring the goals these days, and is that concern put to rest now?

Scoring for RSL has been odd. The front office had two big misses on center forward signings in Yura Movsisyan and Alfredo Ortuño, but last year was the second most goals the team has scored in their history. This is, in large part, due to midfielder Damir Kreilach stepping up in a big way, plus the emergence of 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year Corey Baird.

The team brought in Sam Johnson, who is a 25-year-old Liberian striker. He’s only had substitution appearances thus far but shows a lot of promise once for his potential once he gets settled into the squad.

If the team can clean up the defense and maintain a similar scoring record as last season, that will be a huge improvement.

3. Who all will be missing for your side on Saturday against LAFC?

Real have four players away on international duty, three of whom are starters. Sam Johnson is with Liberia, Albert Rusnak is with Slovakia, Corey Baird is with the U.S., and Julian Vazquez is with Mexico’s U-18 team.

On top of that, Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva are both out with red cards from last week’s game. That means the team is down five starters. Not ideal. There are backups in all the positions, but who plays at center forward is a big question mark. Kreilach could resume his false 9 role, or recent signing Tate Schmitt could play as the No. 9.

4. (Bonus) Prediction for Saturday’s game?

I’m very much hoping for an LAFC own goal and Kreilach karate kick goal that results in a 3-2 win for Real, but that seems unlikely. I don’t expect this to be a kind result for a weakened RSL.

Check out my answers to Lucas’ questions here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!