Well Real Salt Lake heads to Canada, where they have never won a match, where they will take on the Impact who started the season as one of the surprises, but have cooled off a bit lately. Both sides played a match on Wednesday, for RSL it was a come from behind 2-1 win over New England, and for the Impact it was too little too late as a stoppage time goal wasn’t enough to get a win and they lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls.
Both sides have 5 wins on the season and two draws, RSL however had 4 losses, while the Impact have lost only twice so far this season. These two sides have only faced each other once, a 1-0 RSL win at Rio Tinto Stadium last year, but both sides are very different teams now. RSL no longer has Paulo Jr. on the roster, he is the one who scored the goal last year, also missing for RSL will be Fabian Espindola, Will Johnson, Jamison Olave, Jonny Steele, and Terakazu Tanaka, all of whom played against Montreal last season. The Impact also have had a lot of roster changes since these sides last saw each other, names like Alessandro Nesta, Romero, Pisanu, Tissot and others, One thing is clear this early afternoon match will feature some players that should provide plenty of action.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe – After missing a little time with the team for personal reason, Kwame headed to Montreal to meet the team as Nat Borcher’s illness forced him to return to Salt Lake to get further treatment. It was unknown until mid-day yesterday if the second yellow card that was shown to Carlos Salcedo would be overturned (it was), but having Kwame available provides more options along the backline for Real Salt Lake, and having options is something that is always a good thing for RSL.
Sebastian Velasquez – As a starter or off the bench, Sebastian provides the RSL midfield with a boost of energy that can often provide opportunities for himself and others. He is one of the guys who plays the game without fear, his confidence in his own abilities and in his teammates allows him to take some chances on both sides of the ball in order to disruptive. While some may focus on his rather unique hair style, I tend to focus on his ability with the ball, how he uses his body to protect the ball from opponents, and how he has developed a chemistry with his teammates to create offensive opportunities.
Tony Beltran – With all the changes, injuries, and rotations on the back line it is Tony Beltran who finds himself as one of the constants, and he has been constantly good this year, both in his defensive responsibilities but also as part of the attack moving forward. On Saturday he will need to keep an eye on Justin Mapp, who has really come on in recent weeks. All three of the Impact’s goals in their last two matches have involved Mapp who has 2 goals and 1 assist. Tony will need to keep a close eye on the crafty veteran who is making the most of his chances.
Marco Di Vaio – With 5 goals already this season, Di Vaio has provided almost half of the goals the Impact have scored. He is a classic forward who knows how to put himself in great positions, and knows how to finish. Di Vaio has taken 28 shots so far this season, and 18 of those have been on target, nobody has more in MLS. Of course he also leads the league with 24 offside calls, something the RSL back line will need to pay close attention to. While he isn’t the only threat the Impact have, he is the biggest one and one that you must keep an eye on at all times.
Sanna Nyassi – While he may not be a household name around MLS, he is in his 5th season as a 24 year old who started his career with the Seattle Sounders, was taken by Vancouver in the 2010 Expansion draft, traded the same day to the Rapids, and was taken by Montreal in the 2011 Expansion draft. You would think teams would have learned to protect him, he had 5 goals and 5 assists with the Rapids, and last year add 6 more goals and 3 ore assists with the Impact. He has seen limited action so far this season with just 2 starts, but is a player that is very dangerous either as a starter or off the bench.
Justin Mapp – This is his 13th season in Major League Soccer, and while most of his time was spent with the Chicago Fire, before a stint with the Philly Union, and then being taken in the 2011 Expansion draft by Montreal. He played in a majority of the matches for Montreal last year, and scored 2 goals and had 5 assists in his 1,600 plus minutes of action. In his career he has 50 assists to go along with 22 goals. When you look at him, he may not look like your typical soccer player, but he has skill and vision and is simply a very solid, proven performer.
Tired legs could make for a goal filled delightful afternoon – While RSL isn’t used to playing matches at lunchtime, the Impact will be playing in their 6th match of the year to start before dinnertime. A good start will be critical for both sides, each team is undefeated when scoring first (RSL is 4-0-1, Impact are 5-0-2) and only RSL has come from behind to get a result, their win on Wednesday, and a draw earlier in the season against the Rapids. RSL has scored just 2 goals in the first half of matches, while half of the Impact’s 12 goals this year have come in the first half.
If RSL can keep the Impact from scoring in the first half, things will look up for them statistically, RSL have scored 9 goals in the second half, including 7 in the final 30 minutes of matches. Montreal have 6 in the second half and just 3 in the final 30 minutes, while they have given up 6 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches. RSL is 4-2-1 in matches that are tied at the halftime, break, while the Impact are 1-0-1, so will the Claret and Cobalt be able to get off to a solid early start on Saturday afternoon? IF so then they could find themselves in a good place late in the match, as both sides will be playing in their 3rd match in match in a week, RSL has picked up back to back wins, while the Impact have a draw and loss in their last two matches. RSL has given up one goal in their last two matches, while the Impact have give up 4. This could be a match with multiple goals scored.
My Prediction – I think the confidence that RSL picked up on Wednesday in their 2-1 win at New England could really put a extra bit of energy in the step of guys, which will probably be needed as legs get a bit heavy after 3 matches in 7 days. I also think there will be some extra confidence up top as Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval, and Olmes Garcia, all have had a very good week so far. I do worry a bit about Allen Chapman, who has been in charge of 16 matches in MLS and has pointed to the PK spot 14 times, that is a nuts number and with RSL having seen themselves victims of several very questionable PK calls, one has to wonder if this match might not be decided by a PK (hint, last year’s Paulo Jr. goal was a PK).
The Impact are a solid team that doesn’t make many mistakes, RSL is the same, so this match like so many others will likely come down to which side can punish the other for a mistake or two. I have a feeling this one will likely end up in a 2-2 draw, but if RSL can hit halftime without giving up a goal, then we should see them pick up another road win.
That’s How I See It