Two road games in five days for the Impact. It all starts this Saturday night at 10pm EDT at Real Salt Lake (TVA Sports & TSN Radio 690). Here are 10 things to know on the team from Utah.
Real Salt Lake can’t be upset about its season thus far. Unbeaten in six games to start with, RSL is still unbeaten at home and has won three away games to reach third place in the Western Conference with an 8-5-4 record. However, Salt Lake just dropped two points as D.C. United made it 1-1 in the dying stages of last Friday’s game. This unwanted tie came three days after a penalty shootout loss to Seattle Sounders FC in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup.
Current form (MLS)
Jeff Cassar (34-28-23 all-time as Real Salt Lake head coach) became RSL head coach on December 18, 2013. The eighth overall pick of the very first MLS College Draft, in 1996, after appearances in the U18 and U20 U.S. national teams, Cassar played 79 games as a goalkeeper for Dallas, Miami and New York before retiring in late 2006. Immediately called upon to be FC Dallas goalkeeper coach, Cassar spent a number of months there before joining the Real Salt Lake staff in May 2007, under head coach Jason Kreis. After Kreis left for New York City FC, in December 2013, Cassar took over with the aim of ensuring continuity.
Current top scorer
Juan Manuel Martínez & Yura Movsisyan (6)
Players to watch
1. Joao Plata (#10) – The tireless Plata has never let his 5’2” frame stop him. The nominal left winger in RSL’s front three, he can pop up just about anywhere – more often than not where you least expect him.
2. Justen Glad (#15) – A homegrown talent, this 19-year-old centre back is already getting along well with Aaron Maund in RSL’s defence.
3. Nick Rimando (#18) – Oh, can this guy annoy opponents. A miracle here and there is nothing too special by Rimando’s standards – Impact fans will remember his stop on an Ignacio Piatti PK last season.
That famous diamond. It wasn’t so long ago that all of MLS knew that facing Real Salt Lake meant facing a well-oiled 4-4-2 machine that squad rotation couldn’t damage – Whitecaps FC may still remember a September 2013 game where RSL won 1-0 at BC Place despite making 10 changes to its previous lineup. However, RSL has moved away from that formation since 2015 and seldom uses a two-striker system anymore. But the goal remains roughly the same: play some soccer in the opponent’s half and winning the midfield battle. The defensive line is rather high, and full backs push up to provide attacking width, which makes RSL vulnerable to quick attacks in behind – its right side being more prone to conceding than the left. On the flip side, RSL can threaten from just about anywhere. The front three of “Burrito” Martínez, Movsisyan and Plata swap positions quite a bit but do not forget to help out in defence. One or the other drops back regularly to create space for runs from midfield – Plata is especially efficient when it comes to making those runs or feeding the ball to a teammate on the run. Behind them, Javier Morales has slowed down in recent months, but he can still make the opponent pay if he is left in space between the lines – RSL’s central midfielders (Beckerman, Sunny, Mulholland) try and draw direct opponents back to create space for Morales. Pass combinations on the wings to release a full back into space can also create problems for the opposition when RSL speeds up its attacks. On set plays, the Claret-and-Cobalt did great early this season but haven’t quite kept going – in fact, they have conceded quite a few such goals of late.
RSL has for the most part played 4-3-3 this season. Lineup v. D.C. United (July 1): Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Maund, Phillips; Beckerman, Morales, Mulholland; Martínez, Movsisyan, Plata.
Against the Impact last season
In the only game between the two sides last season, the Bleu-blanc-noir pulled off a brilliant win. On May 16, 2015, Laurent Ciman, Andrés Romero – twice – and Dilly Duka tallied for the Impact in a 4-1 triumph. Devon Sandoval replied for the visitors.
Injuries, absences and call-ups (as of July 7)
D Tony Beltran (suspended)
M Sunny (facial fractures)
M Jordan Allen (hamstring)
F Emery Welshman (hip flexor)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Real Salt Lake (MLS, July 13)
Real Salt Lake v. New England Revolution (MLS, July 16)
Real Salt Lake v. Inter Milan (friendly, July 19)