Where: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, California
When: Saturday, March 23, 7:30 pm PT
How to Watch: ESPN+ in the United States, YouTube TV in LA.
Los Angeles Football Club will come up against an all-too familiar opponent on Saturday in Real Salt Lake. LAFC will host the Western Conference side who ended their season in the first round of the playoffs last season, in front of LAFC’s home crowd. In that match, RSL, the sixth seed in the playoffs, won 3-2, with a Jefferson Savarino header that deflected off Walker Zimmerman and a brace (including a karate-kick stunner) from Damir Kreilach. For LAFC, Danilo Silva opened their playoff scoring account, Christian Ramirez got on the scoresheet just minutes after being substituted on, but it was not enough, and Bob Bradley’s men crashed down to earth, and out of the playoffs.
That’s not the only history between the two sides. LAFC traveled to Rio Tinto Stadium in their second-ever match last season, winning 5-1 in front of a shocked RSL crowd. Later, LAFC hosted Mike Petke’s team, winning 2-0 on a night that included five yellow cards for RSL, and a Christian Ramirez brace.
Now, LAFC has their first crack at revenge against RSL. LAFC are unbeaten to start the season, with two wins at home to Western Conference powerhouses Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers, and one draw with NYCFC on the road. RSL, on the other hand, have had a rough start to the season. Their campaign started off with a 1-1 draw on the road against Houston, and their home opener saw them top the Vancouver Whitecaps. Last week, though, RSL walked into Audi Field to play DC United, and saw Wayne Rooney lead the charge with a hat trick, beating RSL 5-0. All that to say, not exactly the start that Mike Petke had in mind.
LAFC and RSL are both dealing with some international break absences. LAFC will be without Mark-Anthony Kaye (Canada) and Christian Ramirez (USMNT), while RSL will miss Corey Baird (USMNT), Sam Johnson (Liberia), and Albert Rusnak (Solvakia).
LAFC will be happy to return home to the friendly confines of Banc of California Stadium, where they have 14 wins, seven draws, and two losses in all competitions since the start of last season. The 3252 will be glad to see RSL again, as they were one of those two losses. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, have just four wins away from home since the start of last season, with four draws and 13 losses.
RSL will be reeling from their 5-0 loss to D.C. United, coupled with the international break. Baird and Rusnak, two of the leaders in the attack, are on international duty, and Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva were both sent off. Mike Petke may be short-handed for this match, but take nothing away from Damir Kreilach and Brooks Lennon.
Prediction: LAFC 4, Real Salt Lake 1. RSL’s road form alone is enough to feel confident in an LAFC win. Given that they are coming off a brutal loss, and they have some players away, plus the red cards, and LAFC’s run of form — LAFC should take all three points. Look out for Carlos Vela, who is making an early case for MLS MVP, to grab another goal or two in this one.
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