Real Salt Lakes takes on Houston as brutal August continues

Well we are 10 days into August and RSL is facing their third match of the month today as they will play host to the Houston Dynamo.  The Dynamo are a interesting foe, they are the team that has played in back to back MLS Cups only to come up shy each time.  The Dynamo are a very typical MLS team, they try to keep their core of players together while adding the right pieces to replace those who have left, it is a story common to fans of every MLS team and one way to common for RSL fans.

RSL has never had a lot of success against the Dynamo, just 3-9-5 and even at home RSL is more likely to get a draw with Houston with a 3-1-4 record in Utah.  This hasn’t been a good year for RSL against what is often perceived as the weaker Eastern Conference, with just a 2-4-2 record, so Saturday will provide a chance to secure 3 much needed points at home which would allow them to stay on top of both the MLS table and the Western Conference.

The Dynamo are an interesting team, since moving to Houston the Dynamo have seemed to know just when to peak in the MLS season, mid summer to late fall and it has paid off with them winning MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007 their first two teams in their new home town, playing in two more MLS Cups (2011 & 2012) and have missed the playoffs just once (2010) since moving from San Jose.  That is consistency at a very high level, given the fact that they moved cities, have moved conferences and dealt with a revolving door of players but at the helm has been Dominic Kinnear.   The changes have been huge over the last couple of years, Stuart Holden left, Ricardo Clark left (and is now back), Geoff Cameron has left, and while Brain Ching is still with the team he now plays a very limited role (0 starts, 13 appearances, 0 goals, 1 assist).

The consistent thing over the years has been Brad Davis, perhaps one of the more overlooked players in MLS who finally has gotten some due by being called into the USMNT.  He recently hit the 300 matches played mark, with over 22,000 minutes of action with 47 goals and 96 assists, and with all regards to David Beckham nobody cause me more heartache on set pieces than Brad Davis. If RSL are going to get a win, they will need to ensure that Brad Davis doesn’t find a way to hurt them, which means close marking by Tony Beltran and whoever plays in front of him in the diamond, most likely Grabavoy.  It will also mean not giving up silly fouls in dangerous places, any foul in our final third is likely going to give Davis a chance to deliver a quality ball into the area and with Will Bruin providing a big (6’2) target who has 5 goals and 5 assists already this year.

It will be an even bigger task for RSL knowing that two of the core players in the diamond will either be less than 100% if they play at all, as Javier Morales picked up an injury in the Rapids match and played limited minutes on Wednesday in the Open Cup match, and a fatigued Kyle Beckerman has picked up a slight hamstring issue to go with a whole lot of minutes played already this summer.  Normally it would be easy to just move Luis Gil to the top of the diamond and bring in Yordany Alvarez to fill in for Kyle, but with Yordany suspended for the match it could cause for more disruption to the diamond.

Could we see Jason once again adjust his formation to keep the speedy outside backs of the Dynamo in check?  A 4-3-3, perhaps?  I think it would be very interesting to see how a top 3 of Findley, Saborio, and Garcia would be able to cause some havoc for the Houston defense, while playing Gil, Grabavoy, Stephenson in the midfield will give us guys with some bite on both sides of the ball in front of a backline that is as close to our first choice lineup as we have seen in months with Beltran, Salcedo, Borchers, and Wingert all doing the hard work in front of Rimando.  You never know this year but with the team playing their 3rd match in 7 days we could also see some rotation with the normal formation, perhaps McDonald spelling Nat Borchers, who has 1620 minutes this year after starting the season injured?  Could we see the midfield lineup in the diamond with moving Ned to the back of the diamond with Kahri and Sebastian taking up positions on the outside of it, with Luis up top to lead the way?  Olmes Garicia has just 5 starts so far this season, could we see him partnered up top with either Alvaro Saborio or Robbie Findley?  I really like the boost of energy RSL gets when they bring on Plata in the 60th minute so I hope we keep him in that role.  One thing is for sure, this year we simply are never sure what Jason might put out as a starting lineup, but with huge matches in the next 10 days on the road against the Galaxy and Timbers, some changes almost seem like a sure bet.

This is a match that could once again raise the blood of RSL fans, as the matches with Houston almost always take a bit of a physical nature and with another inexperienced official (Jose Carlos Rivero) who hasn’t officiated a MLS in over a month (he has worked a couple of friendlies).  In his previous 15 MLS matches he has called an average of 27 fouls per match, he issues an average of 3.7 yellows and has pointed to the PK spot 5 times and issued 4 red cards.  I really hope that we get to see the play on the pitch be the deciding factor and not by questionable calls of the officials.

I think this will be an exciting match, we know that RSL has both scored goals late and given up late goals in a lot of recent matches, well in this series there have been a total of 11 goals scored after the 75th minute, almost 25% of the goals scored in this series.  This would be a great match for the RSL defense to keep a clean sheet as the Dynamo have scored just 26 goals so far this year, only 5 teams in MLS have scored fewer goals.  If RSL can get out to a quick start like they did on Saturday it will force the match to be played more wide open and that usually benefits RSL.  I look for a 2-0 win for RSL as they hold on to the top spot.

That’s How I See It

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