Perhaps no two established teams in MLS have more questions being asked of them this season than RSL and TFC, can RSL in the 2nd year of Jeff Cassars leadership continue to be a dominant force in the West? Can RSL make the transition to the 4-3-3 work? For TFC can they make the playoffs? Will another year with huge signings and what is likely to be the highest payroll in MLS result in success or will the oft chaos in the organizations leadership lead them to the rocky shore yet again?
It is hard to believe that both of these teams are heading into just their 3rd match of the season but have so very much at stake, it is ridiculous that this match is being played this weekend at all. See both teams had a bye week last week when both teams had full rosters, but no we get a match missing several key players on both side. For RSL there will be no Nick Rimando, no Alvaro Saborio, no Luis Gil, and no Elias Vasquez, and for TFC there will be no Jozy Altidore, no Michael Bradley, no Marky Delgado, no Quillan Roberts, and no Chris Mannella, all on national team call ups. Then add in the injuries to Joao Plata, and Pecka on the RSL side, and Steven Caldwell, Mark Bloom, Eriq Zavaleta, on the TFC side which will also deal with the suspension of Justin Morrow. The reality is this match will be played with 11 combined likely starters missing between the two squads, and that is never a good thing and probably has the folks at Fox scratching their heads as this is their prestige national TV match for the weekend.
Still the match is going to be played, and the match is a hugely important one for both sides, as RSL are looking for their first win of the season after a pair of draws in their first two matches of the season. Toronto will be looking to figure out which team they really are, the one that dominated in their opening match a 3-1 win over a improved Vancouver side or the one that got handled 2-0 at Columbus?
Adding to TFC’s pressure early on is the fact that their first 7 matches of the season are on the road, that is a tough task for any team. One thing that might provided some comfort for TFC is that they are likely going to start two players who know Rio Tinto Stadium very well, as Robbie Findley and Collen Warner both spent time with RSL in the past. TFC will also have a bit of the unknown on their side as RSL hasn’t faced Sebastian Giovinco yet, or Luke Moore who joined TFC last year after coming to MLS with Chivas USA last year, in 33 appearances last year he scored 6 goals and 4 assists.
Real Salt Lake is going to stick with their 4-3-3 with it likely putting Devon Sandoval into the middle to fill the role emptied by the call up of Sabo, and we should expect Luke Mulholland to step in for Luis Gil and very steady Jeff Attinella will be between the pipes for Nick Rimando. One thing is clear, we are unlikely to see the chaos of RSL’s last match that 3-3 draw with the Union, I expect a much more organized defensive effort in front of Attinella and with the Javi and Kyle show controlling the midfield we should see RSL be the dominant side when it comes to possession. I do think that one of the highlights could be the continued development of Olmes Garcia, who has been very impressive with his work on both sides of the ball this season, and with the patchwork nature of the TFC defense for this match, this could be a very good thing for Olmes.
So while this match will be missing a whole lot of star power, the reality is that this is a very important match for both sides early in the season. RSL should be able to dominate this match, but as we have seen in our own past, that sometimes when you have a lineup with a lot of second team guys they play with a passion and desire to show what they are about. So RSL will have to be careful, but this is a series that RSL has dominated with 7 wins to 4 losses and 2 matches ending in draws, but at home RSL is 6-1-0 with 17 goals scored and 7 goals allowed, which includes a 3-0 win at Rio Tinto last season. With so many changes it will be a difficult challenge for both teams, but with bye week for both sides last week we should expect well rested and fully prepared guys ready to make a point on both sides of the pitch. I said at the start of the season that one key for RSL this year is to be able to win matches at home against teams from the Eastern Conference, we didn’t do so well against the Union, but I see this one being a tight match with the home side coming out with a 2-1 win over TFC.
That’s How I See It!