You know opening day is imminent when the Intelligence Report returns. Today, we welcome RSL Soapbox Managing Editor Matt Montgomery to our cross-blog talk to find out a little about what Real Salt Lake has been up to since we last saw them.
You may recall that Orlando City drew 1-1 on the road, down to 10 men after the first half because captain Kaká was sent off in the dying seconds of the first 45 minutes. We hope both teams get to keep 11 men on the pitch this time.
You can find my answers to Matt's questions over at their place.
It's been awhile since our two teams have met. What are Real Salt Lake's key off-season additions that we should know about?
Matt Montgomery: Our highest-profile addition is Armenian forward Yura Movsisyan, who joins from Spartak Moscow on loan. He spent 2007 to 2009 at Real Salt Lake before embarking on a European adventure, which went particularly well for him. Second to him -- and only in stature at this point, I suspect -- Stephen "Sunny" Sunday, a gritty two-way midfielder who's impressing Real Salt Lake fans pretty consistently. Chris Wingert, who you probably know from facing NYCFC several times, is back at RSL, too.
With a couple of CONCACAF Champions League matches under RSL's belt, do the visitors have an advantage coming into this season opener against a team that's only played preseason friendlies -- why or why not, and will fatigue be a factor for RSL this early in the season?
MM: On paper, that's certainly an advantage, but a disappointing loss doesn't always lead to taking that advantage seriously; playing Tigres, who were stern opposition, forced us to ready ourselves early. If we look at 2011 as an example, when RSL was inches away from the CONCACAF Champions League final, we see a team that notched four wins to start the season. That leaves me inclined to think we're capable of the same thing. As for fatigue, I don't think that'll rear its head early. If anything, it could be a factor late, but the team's depth has improved significantly over last year.
Of course, there's always that "continental hangover" to worry about, so it's not entirely clear cut.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from Real Salt Lake this weekend against what is most likely going to be a 4-3-2-1 by Orlando City?
MM: It'll be a 4-3-3 for the visitors, and that often takes a 4-2-3-1 shape at this point. If no significant lineup changes are made, expect Javier Morales, Burrito Martinez, Yura Movsisyan, and Joao Plata to form a tight attacking four, with the latter three all swarming around from left to right, swaying as a unit. With a two-DM setup consisting of Beckerman and Sunny as partners, expect to see a better focus on winning the ball around the midfield line instead of letting it pass through. The key overall will be finishing -- it's not been amazing for RSL, with Movsisyan in particular having disappointed in that regard. He'll be itching to score as a result.
What is your anticipated starting XI and score prediction for Sunday?
MM: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Justen Glad, Jamison Olave, Demar Phillips; Kyle Beckerman, Stephen Sunday, Javier Morales; Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel Martinez
3-0. It's the only scoreline worth predicting.
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Big thanks to Matt for giving us the 4-1-1 on RSL for Sunday.