Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: Sunday, August 17, 7:00 pm pt
How to Watch: YouTube TV, KMVD in Los Angeles viewing area; ESPN+ in the rest of the United States.
Los Angeles Football Club will look to add another victim to their tear through MLS this season, as they make the trip to Salt Lake City to take on Real Salt Lake. While LAFC had the week off after beating the New York Red Bulls at home on Sunday, RSL had the task of hosting the Seattle Sounders, which they won 3-0. They also won their weekend match 2-1 on the road over Sporting Kansas City.
LAFC currently stand atop the Western Conference and MLS with 55 points. That puts them 10 points ahead of the top team in the East, the Philadelphia Union, and 14 points ahead of the second placed team in the West, Minnesota United. Their 65 goals for and 25 against are both, by far, the best in the league, and their goal differential remains absurdly high, at +40. RSL sit firmly in the mix of the Western Conference playoff spots, sitting in 4th place with 40 points, ahead of Seattle by one point and level with the Galaxy.
On the road, in all competitions, LAFC has eight wins, three draws, and both their losses in MLS play. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, have a home record of nine wins, one draw, and two losses. The story of the game, of course, is that RSL are coming off the official firing of coach Mike Petke, who was fired by the team this week after his suspension for verbally abusing a referee after a Leagues Cup match, including allegedly using a Spanish-language homophobic slur towards referee John Pitti. RSL have been under the direction of Freddy Juarez for all of Petke’s suspension, plus the Sounders match. However, the shadow of the Petke incident and the fallout still seems to loom over RSL as they pursue a playoff spot.
Speaking of playoffs, there is no shortage of history between these two sides. The teams have met three times in the regular season, with LAFC winning all three, most recently a 2-1 win in March at The Banc. However, RSL has one win over LAFC, and that is the one that stings the most- the knockout round playoff loss, at Banc of California Stadium, due to a combination of wonder-strikes unlike anything many of us have ever seen. By giving LAFC their most painful loss in their history, RSL cemented itself as a target rival for LAFC, who are looking to come away from the playoffs this season with a different result. And if LAFC get a win and results elsewhere go their way, they can book their ticket to the postseason this week.
Prediction: RSL 1, LAFC 3. While RSL are not a bad team, and no one would want to match up with them in the playoffs (cough cough), LAFC are a better team and will play like it. Having gotten their form back, expect LAFC to get three points on the road.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!