OK. So we have six games this month. Drew recently suggested that we need 10-12 points to have a realistic shot at the playoffs. Given absences for international matches, I’m hoping for eight. But that said, we need at least a draw from this match. Real Salt Lake enters this match with a record of 7W-6D-8L – good for 27 points and 7th place in the West: three points ahead of FC Dallas with a game in hand. Their current trajectory, however, is downward.
The major concern for Dallas of course is that Ricardo Pepi, Szabolcs Schon, and Bryan Acosta are away on international duty (Freddy Vargas is away, too, but I’m less interested in him). This means that Franco Jara will probably get the start. Paxton Pomykal should be available for this match, but an attack that depends on Jara still makes me nervous. Luchi Gonzalez could shock me and start Jesus Ferreira up top, but I haven’t seen much evidence this season that our coach is willing to go there. But that said, RSL is maybe hurting even worse. The coach left. They have no owner. Exciting new player Bobby Wood is on the injured list (along with some teammates we saw earlier in the season). It’s tough to be an RSL fan just now.
RSL has lost four of their last six and the only wins came against lowly Houston and Austin. After hot starts from Rubio Rubin and Damir Kreilach, both players have cooled considerably. Real’s hottest players at the moment are Albert Rusnak and Anderson Julio – and neither is really more than tepid just now.
Following Freddy Juarez’s exit last week, Vancouver dropped four on their former Rocky Mountain hosts. So the question is whether Pablo Mastroeni can get the team headed in the right direction as Vancouver won the battle of the recently promoted. Last week RSL managed only two shots on goal and the lone goal came from a bounce off the crossbar that dropped at Julio’s feet in the waning moments of the match. However, Damir Kreilach should return from suspension after missing the match for yellow card accumulation and provide an offensive boost.
Keys to the Match:
1) Paxton needs to be big in this one. With Schon away, he will likely get the start on the left and he needs to create opportunities for Ferreira and Jara. Vancouver created problems for RSL with their crosses, so hopefully, Pomykal can provide service into the box. Outside backs Ashtone Morgan and Noah Powder are filling in for the injured, and Dallas needs to attack them.
2) Joni Menendez –the 27-year-old Argentine arrived this past window from Club Athletico Independiente in Argentina. He had two goals and three assists last spring. Since arriving, he’s yet to bag a goal, but he does have three assists in eight appearances.
3) Brandon Servania made his first start of the season last week and I expect him to play again after Dallas erupted for five goals. Dallas needs him to continue to step up and prove that he should start. He needs to contain Kreilach so that the Croatian can’t set up Rusnak or Rubin. If Pomykal is limited, then I expect Servania to play more conservatively and pack in defensively.
Overall, I’m concerned about Dallas’ ability to overcome the loss of Pepi, but I think our depth is better than their depth. I won’t be disappointed if we leave with a draw, but a road win seems achievable.
Expected Starting 11:
Justin Meram – Albert Rusnak – Joni Menendez
Matt Besler – Damir Kreilach
Ashtone Morgan – Silva – Justin Glad – Noah Powder
OUT: David Ochoa (undisclosed), Zack Farnsworth (undisclosed), Andrew Brody (undisclosed), Jeizon Ramirez (undisclosed), Zac MacMath (undisclosed), Bobby Wood (undisclosed)