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Know The Enemy: Real Salt Lake

We get the lowdown from RSL Soapbox on what to expect from Real Salt Lake this weekend & this season.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

After last week’s 3-2 loss to Minnesota, the opening of the 2019 season won’t get any easier for Vancouver as the Whitecaps are away to Real Salt Lake this Saturday, where the blue and white have gone 1-6-3 with only 6 Goals For in 10 MLS matches. Not very hospitable, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, what better way to get acquainted is there than to bro down with the opposing fandom? We punted three questions off to the boys at RSL Soapboax and were given three sets of answers in return. Big thanks to Lucas Miller for the exchange!

And you can check out my answers to his 3 Questions over at the RSL Soapbox page.

#1) What has the club done in the off-season that will improve upon RSL’s 6th-place finish in 2018 and, more importantly, its semi-final appearance in the playoffs?

Real Salt Lake signed two much needed players: forward Sam Johnson and midfielder Everton Luiz. 2018 was the second highest goals scored in a single season for RSL, and they did that without a true center forward. Bringing Johnson, who is fairly unknown but shows promise as a number 9, could tie the attack together for RSL. Luiz will play in the midfield. The pairing of Damir Kreilach and Kyle Beckerman in the midfield last season never quite worked, even if both players are important to what RSL want to do. Luiz’s single game against Houston showed that he is a tough player who can break up attacks and cleanup messes. It does seem that Everton will get more than a few cards this season.

There are still concerns around the defense. Brooks Lennon is not a right back, even if he’s adapting to that position, Aaron Herrera should be on the right, Tony Beltran is getting older and returning from injury so we don’t know what we’ll get from him, and our three center backs are good, when they’re good. Nedum Onuoha is the new leader on the backline. Marcelo Silva is solid when healthy. Justen Glad is so talented but hasn’t been preforming at his best. Nick Besler should never play as a center back, yet head coach Mike Petke seems to think that’s where he’s best.

#2) Whether it was tactics, personnel, or anything in between, what would have been the one thing you would have done differently to secure a victory against Houston last weekend?

Use all three substitutions. It’s strange how resistant Petke has been to using his subs early enough for them to have a meaningful impact, or he simply forgoes using one or two entirely. Real have a good amount of depth, and a few spots are not locked down, so it makes sense to get fresh legs if the talent is similar.

It was important for Johnson to sub in. He’s sustained a light ankle injury in preseason. Bofo Saucedo was one player that could have been that third sub that would’ve really helped in the attack.

#3) Considering the Whitecaps’ immense roster turnover and as-of-yet indeterminate identity, what kind of game plan would you expect from Mike Petke this weekend?

RSL will lineup as a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. The one lineup change I think is likely from last week seeing Johnson start over Corey Baird. The team will go harder in the attack than they did in Houston. Memories of last season’s home open, a 5-1 loss to LAFC, still linger and Petke will want to put our attacking talent on display for the home fans.

Rio Tinto has been a tough place to play, but since Vancouver is still such an unknown quantity in MLS, we won’t have a great sense for what will happen until Saturday.

BONUS QUESTION!) Given last Saturday’s “white out” in Colorado, what’s the likelihood we’ll have a sequel to the 2017 RSL/VWFC SnowBowl this weekend?

A SnowBowl sequel looks unlikely. The forecast says partly sunny with a high of 37°, which, after having been there for that last snow game, is a welcome change.