It is the Friday before a game, which means it is time once again to get together with a fellow SBNation.com blog to preview the weekend’s game. This weekend FC Dallas is taking on Real Salt Lake. We brought in Matt Montgomery from RSLSoapbox.com to preview tomorrow night’s big Western Conference clash.
BDS: RSL has been one of the surprises of the league this year so far with a hot start. The last couple months have been a little tougher, so what has caused the sudden regression if you will in the team's play? Can they return to that strong form from March and April?
RSLS: The regression — although RSL fans revile the term, largely because of a single NBC Sports article that called one loss a regression — was, I think, simply tied to one of the biggest factors in MLS: playing on the road. The team certainly could have adjusted better to a five-game road trip, but it was one of those situations where you'd expect a team to dip in form. It is worth noting, though, that Real Salt Lake put together three wins for the first time since August 2014.
Whether we can return to that form or not depends on a few factors, not least of which is continued goalscoring. Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata, Burrito Martinez each have five or more goals, and Jordan Allen is steadily reaching that point himself. They need to continue impressing. Additionally, RSL may just need to make one or two signings in the offseason — there's a very real chance that one or two major injuries could derail things, and the squad is particularly thin in some respects. (I may or may not have read the next question before finishing this answer.)
BDS: RSL's schedule is about to get pretty jammed with games over the next few weeks. How is the depth looking with this squad so far this season to handle weeks like the next few?
RSLS: In some ways, the depth is pretty good. We've survived (if only barely) without Kyle Beckerman through John Stertzer slowly coming into his own. That's been a weak point for us in the last two years. Jordan Allen, too, has been making great strides toward being a game-changing player, both off the bench and from starting positions.
At the same time, without one of our two key central defenders (Aaron Maund and Justen Glad), we've struggled. Without both of them, we'd be using our third and fourth center backs. There are no more on the team. We're sitting with three open roster spots, and four of our players have yet to see the pitch for one reason or another. There's significant risk there.
BDS: How does Joao Plata do what he does out on the field? Seriously, five goals and six assists so far...does everyone in Salt Lake believe he is a MVP candidate right now?
RSLS: Plata is an incredibly exciting player, and he's certainly in the early discussion for such an honor. But he's also on a bit of a cold streak right now after dominating early matches — the next step in his development (keeping in mind he's only 24) will be making his contributions more consistent.
He's certainly a player that can rapidly change the pace of a game. If he can continue to do that through the second half of the season, I would say he's certainly a good shout. But he'll have to content with Burrito Martinez and Yura Movsisyan, both of whom have shown excellent goalscoring ability and have the gravitas to potentially maintain that throughout the season.
Projected Lineup: Rimando; Beltran, Maund, Glad, Phillips; Stertzer, Mulholland; Martinez, Morales, Plata; Movsisyan