Orlando City hasn’t played Real Salt Lake since the opening match of the 2016 MLS season. Both teams have seen quite a bit of turnover since then. It’s only natural to scratch your head when wondering about tonight’s contest because there are a lot of unknowns.
For tonight’s scouting report we welcome RSL Soapbox Editor Matt Montgomery who can tell us what Real Salt Lake has been up to since we last saw them, and you can find my answer’s to Matt’s questions over at their place.
It’s been more than a year since these teams have met. What’s different about Real Salt Lake in 2017 and what is familiar?
Matt Montgomery: From a year ago, it feels like everything's been flipped on its head. Maybe a timeline would be helpful here:
- RSL lost arguably its most talented field player, Juan Manuel Martinez, whose contract was terminated by mutual consent so he could return to Argentina.
- Javier Morales wasn't re-signed, he publicly called out the club, and now plays at FC Dallas.
- Jeff Cassar returned for 2017, then he was fired after three matches in charge.
- Mike Petke was brought in as coach.
So there you have it. That's what's different. Familiar? Well, we're still trying to figure that one out here, honestly. I wish I had an answer for you. If things go well under Petke, we could again return to being a side with a distinct identity, which is something we've been missing since the Jason Kreis era.
At minus 20, clearly RSL’s major issue is shipping a lot more goals than the team is scoring. Allowing only one fewer goal than expansion side Minnesota, it’s obvious there are problems on the defensive side. What exactly has led to this?
MM: Yeah, that's a pretty big problem. Here's the thing — we've only lost one match at home this year, and we've still managed that absolutely fantastic-looking record so far. For me, it's all about a few big blowouts on the road — and a series of otherwise normal losses away from home. When you lose 6-2, 5-1, 4-0, 3-0, and so on, it gets really easy to get that number up quickly. I'm hopeful that some of those problems have been solved, and that we simply will stop giving up after conceding an early goal. It would also be nice to stop conceding early goals, but you know, I'm sort of resigned to that being the theme of 2017.
What has been the most pleasant surprise and the most disappointing thing about the coaching change for RSL?
MM: Let's start with the disappointing: We lose on the road. A lot. It's not like we're even competitive. We have one draw and one win. We've played 10 road games. Seriously, that just feels miserable. It used to feel like we had a chance anywhere we went — but that hasn't been the case since (cough) the Kreis years. It only further deepened under Mike Petke, although I'm really convinced there are forces at play that haven't been publicly exposed.
But I've been pleasantly surprised with how open Petke has been. It's one thing to know a coach will have some good quotes in a press conference, but it's another entirely for a coach to speak frankly about the state of the team. When you're underperforming so significantly, it's just nice to know you're not alone in recognizing that.
Injuries/suspensions/projected lineup/final score prediction?
MM: Injuries: Tony Beltran (back, questionable), Sunny (hamstring, questionable), Jordan Allen (knee, out), Chad Barrett (knee, out).
Lineup: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Justen Glad, Aaron Maund, Danny Acosta; Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Albert Rusnak; Joao Plata, Luis Silva, Jefferson Savarino.
Score line: 1-0, RSL.
Much thanks to Matt from RSL Soapbox for stopping by and letting us know more about Salt Lake City’s squad ahead of tonight’s game.