After last week's shellacking at RFK Stadium, the Whitecaps will be hoping a date with the royals of Salt Lake City can help erase memories of the howler they had in D.C. Vancouver's visit to Sandy, Utah last year resulted in three points for the Caps, and Carl Robinson will be hoping for more of that this time around.
We got in touch with Matt Montgomery from RSL Soapbox, and got his thoughts on what Real Salt Lake has shown this season so far.
Eighty Six Forever: Last season was the first time Salt Lake didn't qualify for the playoffs since 2007. What would you consider a successful season this time around for RSL?
Matt Montgomery: We have to make the playoffs. That's the core of success right now — especially after we didn't make it through the first knockout round in CONCACAF Champions League. While that was obviously a tall task, making the playoffs shouldn't be. With Joao Plata looking like his old self again, and with a much-improved squad overall, that's a realistic, achievable goal.
ESF: So far, you guys are second in the West, with 11 points in 5 games, and the most points per game in the league. Would you say this is due to strong defensive performances, or good finishing up front?
MM: It's interesting, because two defensive collapses left us with draws after leading by two goals — so it almost seems like it's not because of strong defensive performances, but I think that might ignore some important factors. The three wins have all featured good (if not outstanding) defensive performances.
It's got to be finishing that's propelling us here, right? Well, outside of Joao Plata, RSL's finishing hasn't exactly been perfect. At this point in the season, Plata sort of has the rest of the team on his back. He's obviously surrounded by very competent attackers — Yura Movsisyan, for example, has been very good with his movement, even if his finishing is still a little rusty. And Burrito Martinez is a highly influential player who gets more attention for his dribbling than his involvement, but both factors play in equal measure.
I guess the answer is that it's mostly finishing, but that the finishing can improve significantly.
ESF: Yura Movsisyan returned to RSL after a six year absence. What are you hoping that he will bring to the team this year?
MM: Goalscoring, plain and simple. He's an excellent finisher, but we haven't quite seen the best of him in that regard yet. Given it's the start of the season, that's probably good — we'd like to see the best from him as the season wears on, when things get a bit tougher around the league.
Of course, he brings more than just goalscoring to the table — his movement is good, and he's always committed defensively when he needs to be. He's also very vocal, and that should — we need players that will hold each other accountable. Last season, there simply wasn't much of that to be had.
Predicted Lineup: Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Maund, Phillips; Beckerman, Sunny; Plata, Allen, Martinez; Movsisyan