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Scouting Report: What kind of Real Salt Lake team will FC Dallas see?

RSL has been one of the biggest surprises in MLS this season.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

My apologies, friends. I’m running behind this week. Dallas hits the road for a matchup with Real Salt Lake. The bad news is that it will be hot. The good news is that it won’t be as hot as FC Dallas. But Salt Lake City does seem to be in worse shape than Dallas in terms of water usage and long-term sustainability. Yikes. Apparently, they make Vegas look environmentally responsible (I looked into it because having played soccer in the Dallas summer heat made me question the viability of playing in Vegas. I understand they will play indoors, yet it still seems questionable). But in soccer news....

Pablo Mastroeni and company enter the weekend with a record of 9W-6L-6D – good for third in the West and 33 points (eight behind second-place Austin but just four ahead of Dallas). If you haven’t seen them in a hot minute, Albert Rusnak is gone; Damir Kreilach is out with injury, and after a hot start a year ago Rubio Rubin has played fewer than 500 minutes this season. Yet they’re still playing well. Their 28 goals scored and 26 goals against are middle of the pack. However, in terms of fouls committed, they’ve been whistled for 20% fewer fouls than Dallas – not quite leading the league in the category, but fewer restarts allowed can’t hurt.

Recent Results

Date Home Score Away
Date Home Score Away
6/25 RSL 0-0 Columbus
7/3 Minnesota 3-2 RSL
7/9 RSL 2-2 Colorado
7/13 Atlanta 2-1 RSL
7/17 RSL 3-0 Sporting KC

The Cobalt and Claret have been struggling in the last five with just one win and two draws (although that’s still two points better than Dallas in that same span). But even before SKC’s Roger Espinoza was sent off (and why doesn’t that happen more often?), all of the highlights from the match were from RSL. Sergio Cordova and the recently returned Jefferson Savarino lead the team with four goals apiece, and each scored a header against SKC. Wingers Justin Meram and Maikel Chang have six assists each and fed corners into dangerous spaces throughout the match. Note: Savarino also has three assists and he’s played fewer than 500 minutes since his return.

Against Atlanta a few nights before, Real also scored a header from a Justin Meram cross but Atlanta took advantage of RSL’s high defensive line early in the match to take all the points. Full disclosure: It was a mid-week match and Mastroeni started his second-string center-backs, but the points count the same. The same high defensive line cost them a goal against Colorado.

Players to Watch:

  1. Sergio Cordova: The 24-year-old Venezuelan is on loan from FC Augsburg for the season. Four goals on the campaign isn’t mind-boggling production, but he had one called back against Atlanta because he was a half-step offside and against Colorado he hit the post (checks notes... header off a cross... hmm...)
  2. Jefferson Savarino: The 25-year-old Venezuelan returns from Brazil and becomes the first DP under RSL’s new ownership. He scored an uncontested shot from outside the box against Colorado and then the header against SKC. Which is to say he’s playing well and goal dangerous from a variety of areas.
  3. Justin Meram: Did I mention that he scored against Colorado? The longtime MLS veteran headed a poor clearance into the net. However, Dallas should mostly be wary of his service. I’m not saying he should be an All-Star, but this group is playing well as a unit right now and looking consistently dangerous. This is good for them – because they’ve looked consistently shaky at the back.

Predicted Line-Up: 4-2-3-1

Cordova
Meram Savarino Chang
Ruiz Loffelsend
Brody Glad Silva Herrera
MacMath

Game Time: 9:00 PM CST – Rio Tinto Stadium. Should be about 90 at kickoff and cool into the upper 80s after sundown.