For Real Salt Lake, June could hold the key to the season

Starting on Saturday,  June 1st Real Salt Lake will face the San Jose Earthquakes, the 2013 Supporter’s Shield winner, at Rio Tinto Stadium it is the first of 4 MLS matches they will play in June.  Three of those matches will be played at home, after hosting San Jose, the defending MLS Cup Champions will come to town on June 8th and while the Galaxy will be missing a few players on National team duty, so will RSL.  RSL will be looking for some revenge for the 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Galaxy earlier this season at Rio Tinto Stadium.

During the World Cup qualifying break RSL will play host to the Charleston Battery in the 4th round of the US Open Cup, a match that RSL will need to win if their plans of hoisting the US Open Cup and using it to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.  RSL advanced to the 4th round via a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks, a match that required a pair of extra time goals to advance.  I expect the team will be up for the match, as it will lead into a 10 day break for the players.

RSL will then pick up the MLS schedule on June 22nd when the Seattle Sounders come to town for their second visit of the year, the first match saw RSL pick up a 2-1 victory, which while nice was far from satisfying after the loss to the Sounders in last year’s playoffs.  This match will end the trifecta of home matches against Western Conference foes, all three of which made the playoffs last year.  After the disappointment of giving up a late goal to the Chicago Fire last weekend, which forced a 1-1 draw, the goal of getting 10 points from the 4 match homestand became a bit more difficult but still something within the range of possibilities.

A bit more detail about each of the June matches:

San Jose comes in with just a 3-5-6 record and just a single win in their last 10 MLS matches, they also lost in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup to the Charleston Battery a match played on the East coast.  The Quakes have given up 20 goals in their first 14 matches, and scored just 13, and while 5 goals and 3 assists would be a great start for most players, for Chris Wondolowski it seems rather pedestrian after his performance last year.  More on this match will be coming in my match preview, but I would say anything less than 3 points in this match would be a huge disappointment.

The last time RSL faced the LA Galaxy, only six of their normal starters were in the lineup but that didn’t stop them from getting off to a quick start and their two goals in the first 15 minutes provided them enough of a lead to walk away from Rio Tinto with the win.  It was a great example of why it doesn’t matter what team or players line up against you, you must always take them seriously and respect what they are capable of or it can bite you in the butt.  This time around their lineup again will be a bit hodgepodge as Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, and who knows what injury issues they will be dealing with, so while it might be easy to think RSL should have an easier match this time around, one just never knows.  To pick up all 3 points RSL will have to find a way to breakup the rhythm of how the Galaxy play, more pressure on the ball and making shots count, this will be a tough match.

The final home match will be the Seattle Sounders, a team that RSL beat 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this year, but a side that has always provided a tough opponent for RSL.  After a very slow start the Sounders picked up some steam, but last weekend they were embarrassed by the Galaxy 4-0 in LA, and then lost in the US Open Cup (they had won 3 of the last 4 tournaments) to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  It seems you just never know which Sounders team will show up, the one that beat San Jose 4-0 and FC Dallas 4-2, or the one that lost to Tampa Bay?  RSL should be able to muster a win in this match, but Seattle has traditionally been a solid road team, this year they are 2-3-1, so again RSL will need to be in top form to get all 3 points.

When those 3 home matches are over, RSL will be at the halfway point of the MLS season and will have balanced out their home and away matches, so where they stand after June 22nd will be a big indicator of how the season is likely to go.  We have been told that RSL will be better in June than they were in March (2-2-1) so we should expect good things.

Beyond the home MLS matches, RSL has one league match on the road as they will head to Toronto on June 29th, RSL has never won a match in Canada but perhaps no better chance will present itself than this one as despite another coaching change, a new President, and more roster changes than most people can keep track of TFC are again one of the bottom teams in MLS.  Currently they have a 1-7-4 record and only DC United have fewer points than do TFC.  RSL has shown this year that they can play well on the road, with 3 victories already in hand from 8 matches and a +1 road goal differential.  It would go a long way to making a very good start to the second half of the season if they could pick up their first ever win in Canada.

There is also the US Open Cup 4th round match, and while RSL was able to pick up the win over the Atlanta Silverbacks,  their performance left a lot to be desired as they failed to finish off several quality chances in regulation time and had to go the extra 30 minutes to secure the win.  On June 12th when the Charleston Battery comes to town, I expect we will again see a rather loaded RSL roster on the pitch, and this time I expect they will be looking to finish off their opponents quickly and save themselves the 30 minutes of extra time.

5 matches in June, and each of them will present RSL with a different challenge, but each of them is a match that anything less than a win will have to be considered a disappointment.

That’s How I See It

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