Teams: Real Salt Lake vs Vancouver Whitecaps
Location: Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City
Date and Time: September 19th, 9:30 pm EST, 6:30 pm PST
Watching: TSN (in Canada) & MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
What to expect
The Caps will actually bring some momentum into a match for once, having hit on something in the 4-2-3-1 against Montreal that produced three goals and three points.
Marc dos Santos will have a bit of a conundrum ahead of Saturday: Stick with the hot hand at striker in Fredy Montero, who impressed with two goals a whole lot of soccer IQ Wednesday, or slot back in Lucas Cavallini, who returns from suspension. MDS could also blow up the formation and play them both, with Montero in more of a creative role (something he did well the other night) or even as more of a shadow striker.
The problem is both David Milinkovic and Cristian Dajome are also in good form, meaning that one of these players, in all likelihood will be forced to come off the bench. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing—MDS has gotten more aggressive in substitutions in recent matches and having someone of quality to bring in (especially a pacey player like Dajome) could be a boon if the Caps find themselves down a goal early in the second half.
That isn’t the last decision facing MDS, however. Janio Bikel looked solid in his return from injury but was subbed out in favor of Michael Baldisimo at halftime, leaving questions about his fitness. Baldi, meanwhile, has played in each of the last three matches, meaning he could potentially do for a rest. And Leonard Owusu has not looked convincing at in the central midfield role, coming on as a number 10 instead against the Impact. Whether Ali Adnan will play as a fullback or winger, leaving an opening for Cristian Gutierrez is also an open question and could give an indication as to whether the team is looking at Guti as the left back of the future.
They will be tested by a Real Salt Lake team whose form has been oscillating lately. RSL finished bottom of their group in Orlando, promptly smashed the Colorado Rapids, got smashed by Minnesota, cruised by LAFC and lost 5-0 to the same Rapids team. Got that?
Defense has been the major issue for RSL as of late—the five goals they shipped to Colorado could have been an even higher number if the Rapids could finish.
RSL likes a 4-2-3-1 themselves, with Albert Rusnak pulling the strings in the CAM position and some combo of Maikel Ramirez, Justin Meram and Douglas Ruiz providing support on the wings (Ruiz will be suspended for the match so count him out). Corey Baird has gotten the bulk of the matches up top, with Sam Johnson as the super sub striker.
Damir Kreilach and Everton Ruiz are generally skilled defensive midfielders (Kreilach just got a brand, shiny new contract extension) and unlike Vancouver, really require those guys to chip in offensively (Baird has only two goals this year, while Kreilach leads the team with three times that many). Kreilach is given a lot of freedom to be an attacking player and it shows.
Still RSL is below average in most defensive categories (minus clean sheats—score one for keeper Andrew Putna). The team appears likely to roll with a Herrera-Glad-Onuoha-Toia backline—the same one which got carved up against Colorado. That means they’ll all be world beaters Saturday night, probably.
Predicted Starting XI
The above starting lineup is basically a guess—I’m not really sure what MDS’s brain is like anymore. Both the Caps and RSL have been puzzling as of late and that adds a whole another layer of difficulty into predicting this one. I think that Montero’s good form will continue and will be enough to help the Caps grab an early lead—but not enough to help them get all three points. A 1-1 draw seems like a reasonable enough guess.