Orlando City plays Real Salt Lake this Saturday in a bid to make it two wins on the road and keep the good vibes rolling after the first home win of the young season. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake is a team reeling after suffering four straight losses, and will be looking to change its fortunes against the Lions — a team it has yet to beat.
In preparation for this week’s match, I found myself rowing a leaky canoe to the middle of the Great Salt Lake, where I met with Lucas Muller, one of the editors over at SB Nation’s RSL Soapbox. He was kind enough to give me some insight into this year’s RSL team ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Utah. I also answered a few questions which you can find over at their place.
The beginning of the season has been a bit rocky for RSL. After a draw and a win the team has suffered four straight losses. It’s important to note though that every loss came to a team that made the playoffs last year, and with that in mind are you especially worried about the recent run of results or has the team shown enough positives in those games to prevent too much concern?
Lucas Muller: Concern for Real Salt Lake’s form is very valid at this point. Things could turn around, and probably will, but four losses in a row is always a problem. RSL had four red cards in three of those games, which very much changes how the results go. What is promising is in at two of those losses — LAFC and Seattle — RSL looked competitive. Those teams are on absolute fire right now, so the fact that RSL only lost by one goal is a slight encouragement, especially given the 5-0 loss to DC United.
Much like Colorado, the team that Orlando played last week, RSL has had some struggles with red cards and has three in its last four games. How much do you think the bookings affected the outcome of those games?
LM: Red cards completely change games. If RSL doesn’t get a red card in LA, it’s reasonable to think they could’ve held LAFC to a 1-1 draw. If they didn’t get a red in the first half against FC Dallas, they could have battled back. They still got two goals but they went on to allow a total of four goals. That DC game was such a disaster, but before the penalty and red card, RSL looked fairly commanding.
At the end of the day, RSL has to do better and be more disciplined on the field. Some of the reds seem pretty soft, but if you give the ref the opportunity, you open yourself up to a card.
RSL signed forward Samuel Johnson to a Designated Player contract in early February and he’s appeared in all of the team’s games this season. What’s your impression of him based on what you’ve seen so far?
LM: He was one of the best RSL players on the field against Seattle last weekend. It was his first start and he showed a lot of promise, even if he wasn’t getting a ton of service. He may be a player that takes some time to adjust to the league, or for the team to understand what he needs from the players around him.
Are there any suspensions or injuries that will keep players unavailable for selection? What’s your predicted starting lineup and scoreline?
LM: There are no players that have been regular starters in the last season or so that are injured. Justen Glad and Joao Plata were on the injury report last week, listed as probable, but they both played with the Monarchs (RSL’s USL team) last weekend and should be available for selection. The team also went the full 90 against Seattle without picking up a red and that gives Head Coach Mike Petke a lot of options.
There’s a lot of options in the attack but my best guess for starting XI is Nick Rimando; Aaron Herrera, Marcelo Silva, Nedum Onuoha, Brooks Lennon; Kyle Beckerman, Everton Luiz; Albert Rusnak, Demir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino; Sam Johnson with a 2-1 win for RSL.
Big thanks to Lucas for sharing his thoughts on Real Salt Lake.