So this is the match where some folks had marked as their panic mark for RSL, but clearly that came earlier for DLH who dropped Jeff Cassar a couple weeks ago and now with Mike Petke coming in on Monday, so can RSL head into their new era on a up note? There will be no opponent that RSL will be as heavily favored against this season than MN United (0-3-1 with 18 goals allowed) but for a team that has only scored a single goal in their first four matches, can the RSL offense be the “animals released from their cage” that Mike Petke believes they are?
While it is easy to joke about the Loons (best nickname in MLS) have given up a ton of goals, the reality is they have scored more than most teams as well with 6 goals scored in their first 4 matches, so can the RSL defense which has been their saving grace (if there has been one so far this season) in only allowing 4 goals in their first 4 matches slow down the Loons? This matchup is really an interesting one as an expansion team will be looking to provide their fans with something more exciting than snowballs at their first ever match taking on a team desperate to regain their glory days that seem further and further removed daily.
Keys to the Match:
Score – this hasn’t changed and won’t change until RSL can actually step up and score some goals and no better chance will come their way than this match against the team that leaks goals at record shattering pace. Rusnak will be back, Beckerman will be back and it is hard to say which of the injured RSL players may make their return to the bench or starting lineup. At home a couple weeks ago the offense looked dangerous, on the road last week a lot less so. If you can’t score against the Loons you may have some real issues to deal with.
A New Day – I was surprised when RSL resigned Jeff Cassar at the end of last season, I was shocked when he was fired just 3 matches into the 2017 season, nobody was surprised when Mike Petke was announced as RSL’s new coach this week. If you are a player you aren’t going to get a better chance to showcase your skills, work rate and desire to a new coach as you will be able to do against a struggling expansion team.
Youth Movement – We have seen some exciting moments already this season from some of the younger guys on the RSL roster. Picking up Rusnak as a young DP was a big move, getting Brooks Lennon on loan from Liverpool another big move and then add in Jose Hernandez and Justin Schmidt all who joined the youngsters already here. Jordan Allen, Sebastian (Bofo) Saucedo, Danilo Acosta, Omar Holness, Ricardo Velazco and Joao Plata. Heck RSL could put together a damn good team of guys under 25, but it is no longer good enough to have potential as MLS is too good of a league to have spots occupied by potential, it is time to deliver. Can we start to see more than glimpses and see the youth of RSL prove they belong not only in Salt Lake but in MLS?
Players to Watch:
Albert Rusnak – Back from international duty and off a great performance in RSL’s last home match, I expect we will see even more of what Rusnak can offer as the offensive engine of RSL. Before the sending off of Kyle Beckerman Rusnak was free to find the ball and create and RSL looked dangerous, if they can find that again in Minnesota on Saturday I believe we will see some great results. RSL will get chances, now it will be about finishing them and I think Rusnak gets his first for RSL.
Christian Ramirez – I am not sure if you can call him the heart of the Loons but it would be hard to argue against it, as one of the holdovers from the NASL days the reality is Ramirez probably should have been in MLS a couple years ago. Now with 2 goals and 1 assist in his first 4 MLS matches people understand why, not a lot of NASL guys make as quick of an adjustment to MLS as Ramirez has and if RSL don’t pay close attention he will make them pay.
Wingert – Schuler – Maund – Phillips
Mulholland – Beckerman – Rusnak
Lennon – Movsisyan – Saucedo
There isn’t going to be a better chance for RSL to get their first win of the season, OK maybe next weekend against a Vancouver side that looks as challenged as RSL so far this season, but then matches against Colorado, Atlanta, Sporting KC and FC Dallas things won’t be easier. I couldn’t agree more with a coach than when Mike Petke in his introduction press conference compared RSL’s offense as caged animals waiting to be let out, this is it, this is the match you can score 4 in and get that confidence that plays such a huge role for offensive players. So yeah I am picking RSL to score some goals, going with a 3-1 RSL win, but this one could as easily end up 5-4 or any other crazy scoreline but I think RSL’s experience will be the key to them picking up the victory on the road.
That’s How I See It!