This is a trap game! Just think about it: RSL is coming off a very emotionally charged week. We did well enough to eek out a point and are basking in the glory of that gutsy performance. We’re undefeated after 5 games, 3 of those being on the road. Heck, we’ve played LA twice, a team we struggle with, and San Jose on the road. The confidence is there. That is exacly why this is a trap game. Nobody is talking big about RSL vs Philadelphia. Nobody thinks Philly should push us all that much – they’ve been really inconsistent so far this year. RSL, historically, has struggled with this situation.
This was one of my biggest gripes with Jason Kreis. The guy could get this team to fight with the best of them as underdogs, but when they were the side favored to win? Well, you remember the 2013 US Open Cup. This is a big test for Jeff Cassar. Arguably even more of a defining one than last weeks big MLS Cup rematch. Jeff has to find a way to get these guys focused on a game that will easily lose attention.
Where the game will be won for RSL:
Philly doesn’t have an overly impressive midfield. They are a team with a few talented players sprinkled around and then a lot of guys that bust their tails to make it work. RSL has to exploit this. When we win the midfield battle, good things happen. The play last week from the diamond was mediocre at best. Improved play from the midfield relieves pressure from the defense. That relieved pressure frees the outside backs. Those outside backs then push forward in the attack. That gives us numbers up front and leads to goals. The midfield simply has to be consistent in this game and win possession.
Where the game will be won for Philadelphia:
With new man Andrew Wenger possibly getting a start, it might actually be a blessing for RSL. Connor Casey, the man Wenger would push out of the lineup, has been known to be a thorn in the side of Real Salt Lake. His time with Colorado and then his lone game with Philly against RSL were proof of this. The guy has a knack for finding space. If it’s Wenger, though, we might catch a break. Regardless, RSL has to be wary of the big target guy for Philly. He’ll be the point that everything flows off of. If you can shut that guy down (whoever it may be) you kill their offense.
Player to watch for RSL: Javier Morales
The midfield is his to dictate. Kyle runs the defensive side of the show, nobody would argue much against that. But turning the won possession to a legitmate attack? That’s all Morales. The maestro struggled in KC. He admitted himself that the game was not good from RSL. To win the midfield, where RSL has to play their best, Javi has to do well. Simple passes, movement into space, and then that creative ball in the final third. It’s vital to RSL’s success on Saturday.
Player watch for Philly: Sebastian Le Toux
Like Morales, the Philly attack flows through Le Toux. The guy will punish teams with long driving runs if he is given too much space. His style reminds me of Will Johnson. He isn’t going to be overly impressive in what he does, but he is going to bust his tail to do it and surprise you with his occasional creativity. Sebastian is the key to getting the ball up top to the Union’s target man. If you cut off Le Toux’s service, you kill the Philly goal scoring threat.
Projected Starting XI for RSL:
Attinella, Wingert, Borchers, Schuler, Balchan, Grabavoy, Beckerman, Morales, Muholland, Saborio, Garcia
Bench: Fernandez, Mansally, Maund, Grossman, Gil, Stertzer, Sandoval
This is a massive test for Jeff Cassar. On the heels of accomplishing something Kreis mightly struggled with (Sporting Kansas City) he has yet another test in the department of “Kreis’ Struggles”. Kreis struggled to get this team focused on a game they were favored in. When the attention was off of them being the underdog, Kreis didn’t know how to inspire. Cassar thus has a chance to rid the team of those demons. I’m hopeful Jeff can show his ability here. This is truly a test of a good day-to-day manager. Yeah, getting the team up for a big challenge is one thing that we should value. But having a manager who can keep an even keel on the team? That’s something RSL has simply never had.
I have my doubts we can pull it off. It is just too ingrained, in my opinion, into the psyche of this squad/club to struggle in this situation. On paper we should kill this team. That is what scares me the most. I really don’t want our first loss of the season to be to the Union (a team we’ve never lost to), but it’s a very real possibility. Still, have faith and BELIEVE. This team has surprised us all so far this season. Why not once again?