Real Salt Lake travels to the Silicon Valley this weekend to take on the San Jose Quakes. After pulling off a quite unexpected win in Los Angeles this last weekend, Real is playing with the proverbial “house money” in this one. Any result is shooting above what was expected in these first two weeks. That is not to say that RSL should sit in, far from. Remember that in 2013 this team was one or two goals away from taking home the Supporters Shield, after all.
San Jose is coming off a week in which they played their very first competitive match of 2014. They drew with Toluca in Champions League 1-1 on Tuesday night. In true San Jose Goonie fashion, they got the game tying goal in stoppage time. So, the question for the home side is how much do they value this game compared to the second leg of Champions League play. If it were RSL in their position, I guarantee you that the lineup for this weekend would be “reserve” laden. However, very few teams (if any) truly care for Champions League quite like RSL.
I’d expect to see a full side for San Jose or very close to. Their game plan, based on preseason games and the Toluca match, seems to be the same as it was for the past few seasons. They want to get the ball wide, create chaos around the box, and whip in balls into that danger area to finish off. Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon playing their best trades of finishing through the air on a cross. RSL has to watch this, they can’t let them burn it like they did last year.
Where the Game will be Won for RSL:
This is one of the few games where I don’t think RSL wins the game in the middle of the pitch. The outside backs will be the deciding factor. Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert have to have stellar games. The San Jose attack is going to go right at them, often in one v one situations. If they get burned, we’re hopeless.
Where the Game will be Won for San Jose:
Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart. Right in the middle of the of the attack. If they miss the sitters they did against Toluca, we’re going to get out of there with a point. But I wouldn’t bank on that happening.
Player to Watch for RSL: Chris Schuler
The news that Schuler could play in this game weighs heavily on how it’ll go. Yeah, Beltran and Wingert are the keys to our success, but ultimately it’ll be Schuler who keeps San Jose off the board. I’m not overly confident in the aerial abilities of the center back duo of Nat Borchers and Aaron Maund against the Goonie squad. If Schuler is healthy enough to start, we’ll find a way to snag a point.
Player to Watch for San Jose: Cordel Cato / Shea Salinas
The wing play for San Jose is massive. I keep bringing up the forwards, but without service they’ll be invisible all night. If these wide players can get decent service into the box, they’ll win the game for San Jose. They struggled at times to get good balls in against Toluca, but still found a way to be dangerous. That doesn’t bode well for RSL.
Projected Starting XI for RSL:
Rimando, Wingert, Borchers, Schuler, Beltran, Beckerman, Gil, Grabavoy, Morales, Saborio, Plata.
Bench: Attinella, Maund, Mansally, Grossman, Mulholland, Allen, Garcia
This is a hard game to get a read on. On paper, RSL is the better side. Real just has better quality all around the pitch. As the saying goes, this game isn’t played on paper. San Jose isn’t the same team they were last year. They’re trying to find that 2012 spirit and form where they just always found a way to win – often very late. I think a draw is what we can expect, but wouldn’t be surprised by any result in this one.