I traded 3 questions with fellow SBN Blog RSL Soapbox...hopefully these give you some further insight into Real Salt Lake as we head into the big weekend.
How have RSL coped with the loss of Javier Morales on offense and who will Dallas need to shut down on Saturday/Tuesday?
It took a while for the team to deal with the loss of Javi and what he meant to the offense, then combined with the CCL loss and the Gold Cup callups it was a rough patch for RSL's offense but over the last couple weeks I think they have finally gotten back to the team that people expect to see.
It has been interesting how many different players who have stepped up, but none comes close to filling in for Javier, I would say that while he hasn't been a goal scorer that the play of Collen Warner has shown that he can be an important cog in the RSL offense.
I also think that Tony Beltran has started to really become an outside back who has great comfort and confidence on both sides of the ball, he has always been a very good defender but over the last month he has added a new level to the offensive side of the ball. I think with how FC Dallas plays that it may be Beltran who really could make an impact in both matches.
Do you anticipate similar lineups for Saturday and Tuesday or could we see something very different for each game?
I do, for the most part. The reality is that injuries are still a major issue for RSL and having so many matches over the last couple weeks has added some fatigue issues. I would expect that you might see some rotation of guys in the midfield Luis Gil, Nelson Gonzales, Collen Warner, and Andy Williams all are choices that can play various positions in the diamond.
The ability to play a Jean Alexander either up top or in the midfield is a great option for RSL. I expect one of these matches will see for the first time in months the top two RSL forwards (Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola) get a start together, and that could be really good for RSL as the 2 account for 6 of our last 8 goals scored.
How will the RSL defense adjust to Nat Borchers being out with a red card suspension for Saturday's MLS game?
It is tough to replace a Nat Borchers, he simply is a valuable player who far too often gets overlooked by people but does a ton of hard work for RSL. I think you will likely see Chris Schuler fill in for him on Saturday if Chris Wingert is ready to go at outside back, if not than you could see Robbie Russell play in that position with Schuler move to the outside.
I think RSL has perhaps the most depth on defense of any team out there, we saw against New England that even down a man that RSL (when not jobbed by the officials) could dominate a team even when out numbered. Late in that match we were able to move Will Johnson back to an outside back position to get another offensive minded player on the pitch for us to get the 3-3 draw. Not many teams have 7 very solid defenders on their roster but with 2010 MLS defender of the year Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Wingert, Tony Beltran, Russell, Schuler, and Rauwshan McKenzie I feel we have just that.
I do think that with the busy schedule you will see Borchers back for the match on Tuesday night, but don't be surprised if may Jamison Olave is rested, as he has some nagging knee injuries so 3 matches in 8 days is a heavy load for him.