Real Salt Lake have no margin for error vs Houston – Match Preview

Since the Gold Cup break RSL has put together a nice little unbeaten streak of 3 matches but as nice as their road win in Portland was the back to back draws at home have to be considered points left on the table. Leaving points on the table is something RSL can’t continue to do, with just 11 matches left they are still a long way from a playoff spot. Bigger than the 5 points between them and Vancouver is the fact that RSL has played more matches than anyone in the West (other than Portland who has has played 23 times). RSL’s points per match are still well below their playoff components at just 1.09, the lowest ppg of any team above the red line is 1.35 of Portland.  So when Houston comes to town with a bad 1-7-3 road record it is as golden of an opportunity to close those gaps as any.

Then add in that RSL may want a bit of revenge for the 5-1 thrashing they took in Houston at the end of May, and the stakes get even a bit higher. The Dynamo who haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 are a very different team than the one who finished at the bottom of the West last year. They have already notched two more wins with twelve to go than they did all of last year, and with 39 goals scored nobody in the West has scored more than they have.

RSL got to debut their latest signing Marcelo Silva during their friendly with Man U and since then he has played every minute of RSL’s last two MLS matches and he looks to be a better than average CB who has a great understanding of the game.  We have also seen the offense look sharper with Plata picking up 3 goals in the last 3 matches and Jefferson Savarino seems to have found his groove as well. Lots of questions about the future of Yura Movsisyan with RSL as he has only seen 12 minutes of action over the last 3 matches.

I have since the start been amazed how quickly RSL fans will turn on their own, beyond being critical to the point of wanting them to fail. We have seen it before, one only has to look back at how Alvaro Saborio was treated and even how many treated Joao Plata at the end of last season and the start of this season.  Now it is Yura’s turn on the hot seat and he can hardly play the innocent victim in the turn of events as his public animosity with Mike Petke has stoked the fire as RSL suffered a long offensive drought.  Will we get a chance to see Yura get back in favor?  Only goals will do that and when you don’t get on the pitch you are unlikely to score.  I would hate to see Yura leave as I think he still has a ton to offer the squad, but only time will tell.

So RSL’s biggest challenge against Houston will be getting off to a good start, the first 30 minutes are likely going to tell the tale.  Houston has scored 16 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches, 10 in the first 15 minutes. RSL has given up 17 in the first 30 and 11 in the first 15, then you add in that RSL is just 2-10-1 when giving up the first goal and Houston is 8-0-3 when they score first.  So it is simple, stop the Dynamo from scoring first and you have a solid chance of picking up 3 much needed points at home.  Now before you think it is all storm clouds for Saturday, understand that Houston on the road have scored just 9 goals while giving up 21. RSL still has a negative home goal differential with just 12 scored and 13 given up, but no better chance to turn that around than against a team that is minus 12 on the road.

A couple years ago when Chivas USA collapsed, there was a lot of debate about Erick “Cubo” Torres and until this season that debate looked to be very valid as he had simply struggled to many any difference at all. However it appears the switch has finally flipped for him as he has 12 goals and 2 assists in 19 matches played this season. That is good enough to be tied for 3rd in MLS at this point and when you add in Mauro Manotas with 7 goals and 4 assists you see a very lethal duo up top for the team in orange.

It is too early, but not by much to say that every match is a must win, but let’s be clear about reality for RSL every home match is a must win and even more a must not lose.  Eleven matches to go for RSL and to make the playoffs mean getting at least 20 points (more likely 23 or 24) and you can do that math yourself.  This will be an exciting match as both sides like to attack and both have the potential to put up goals in bunches, you would expect Houston to simply look to get a point and head back home but for RSL it has to be 3 points.  After watching RSL play teams that suffer at defense and putting up a lot goals against them in recent weeks, and RSL struggle against the best defense in the league (Sporting KC) this is a match that has all the hallmarks of a blowout.  If RSL can strike first, strike early we could see a mirror image of the 5-1 loss at Houston but that is likely a stretch, I am going with a 3-1 RSL win at home in a “must win” Western Conference showdown.

That’s How I See It !!

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