LAFC vs Real Salt Lake: Preview
By: Benjamin Virgen (3/22/2019)
Like Drake would say, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”.
After a bittersweet road trip across the country to New York City, LAFC return to Los Angeles on
Saturday night when they host Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium in Week 4 of the 2019 MLS
season. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30pm and the game will be televised on YouTube TV. The Black &
Gold will look to remain undefeated on the season and continue their winning streak at home after
impressive victories over Sporting KC and Portland Timbers. Real Salt Lake has had a bit of an up-and-
down start to their season with one win, one draw and one loss. With the wound of last season’s playoff
loss yet to heal, LAFC will be motivated to get the three points against their RSL and potentially move
into 1 st place of the Western Conference.
RSL: Focusing on LAFC
The boys from Utah are coming off a terrible 5-0 loss against D.C. United, the best team in the Eastern
Conference thus far. There was a common understanding in the RSL camp that the team played well
during the first 30 minutes of that match up until the first D.C. United goal. Just when they thought they
would go into the half only one goal down, RSL gave up a goal in the 41 st minute and one of their key
players got a red card. The second half was not any better as they allowed three more goals and another
red card in a forgettable match for the Claret and Cobalt.
Head coach Mike Petke stated this week that he and the players are over the game in Washington D.C.
and are already looking forward to Saturday’s match: “LAFC is a very difficult team, especially at home
and are to me a top 2 team in the league right now,” Petke said during an interview in training. “Their
ability to shift defenses and create 1v1 to 2v1 situations, their interaction of their midfielders in
different roles, their counter press and every player’s ability on the ball”, were just some of the things
that Petke mentioned when asked what makes LAFC a top team in MLS. RSL is aware of the individual
talent each LAFC player has with the ball at their feet, including the outside backs getting involved in
attack. The match will put RSL players in very difficult situations that they will just have to figure out as
the game progresses.
RSL: From Bad To Worse
The game in itself was already going to be a tough one for RSL because it is on the road against one of
the best home teams in the league. To make matters worse, Real Salt Lake will be missing plenty of
players due to various reasons for this match in LA. After using the same starting XI for the first three
games, Real Salt Lake will have to make some adjustments with five players out: defender Marcelo Silva
(suspension), midfielder Jefferson Savarino (suspension), midfielder Albert Rusnak (international duty),
forward Cory Baird (international duty) and forward Sam Johnson (international duty). Each of their
three DP’s will be unavailable for this match in Savarino, Rusnak (2 goals this season and only player to
score for the club in 2019 so far) and Johnson as well as a few possible others yet to be confirmed due to
injury. However, RSL still have veterans Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman contributing their
experience as well as Croatian attacking midfielder Damir Kreilach, who scored two goals in RSL’s victory
over LAFC last season in the playoffs.
Petke and his coaching staff will have to dig deep into their roster to build a starting line-up worthy of
competing with LAFC. With their obvious attacking limitations, RSL will be forced to use a defensive
game plan to frustrate LAFC by matching their intensity and disrupting the flow of their offense. We
expect to see plenty of motivated reserve players on the pitch for RSL as they look to prove to their head
coach that they deserve a spot in the starting XI. In my opinion, RSL is not coming to LA with any
intention of winning this game; they are coming to get a point at best. Given the circumstances, RSL will
be looking to hold the Black & Gold to a draw by defending their goal with physicality, organization and
LAFC: Filling In The Blanks & Breaking Down RSL
LAFC will also be missing some important players of their own due to international duty: Mark-Anthony
Kaye (Canada), Christian Ramirez (USA), Peter-Lee Vassell (Jamaica) and Mohamed El-Munir (Libya).
Steven Beitashour and Lee Nguyen both have been training in full with the club this week, which makes
one believe they will be ready for Saturday’s match. Andre Horta made the game day roster for the first
time last week but did not see any action on the field vs NYCFC. It was smart for head coach Bob Bradley
to keep him off the uneven Yankee Stadium grass as it was a hazard for a player coming off an injury.
With Saturday’s game being played on an actual football pitch and with several players out with their
national teams, Horta’s chances of being featured will increase if healthy.
For this game in particular, LAFC needs to focus on who is available instead of who is not. When regular
starters are missing, it gives others the opportunity to step up and prove to Bob that they deserve more
minutes on the pitch. With Beita likely returning to the starting line-up, Danilo Silva will head back to the
bench after a decent performance from the Brazilian in New York. Depending on Horta’s availability, the
midfield will consist of Eduard Atuesta, Lee Nguyen and perhaps the Portuguese DP. The expectations
are high for the talented 22 year-old with some fans getting impatient and frustrated with the lack of
participation from the midfielder. This is the perfect game for Horta to make his season debut
considering LAFC missing key players in the midfield and we hope he can step up and take advantage of
Based on what Bob has projected in his lineups thus far, the attacking three would be composed of
Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande. Christian Ramirez got the start in the first three games of
the season with Diomande coming on for him as a substitute in each one. That trend will no longer
continue with Ramirez unavailable, which means that Dio will get his first start of the season if he is fully
recovered from his hernia surgery during the offseason. In the case where Dio is not yet ready to make a
start, I can see Vela starting in the center-forward position, something he did a few times last season
with Rossi and Blessing on the wings. When Bob decides to substitute Dio into the match, he could
replace either Horta or Nguyen who are coming off injuries and drop Blessing to the midfield. Of course,
these are all speculations but the good thing is that Bob will have options to work with even with all the
absences. This goes to show just how deep the LAFC roster is this season and I would not be surprised if
we see a player debut on Saturday like we did with Adrien Perez in New York.
It is clear that RSL will be missing several starters on the field but that is something that should not be in
the heads of LAFC players going into this match. The mentality of maintaining a high intensity for 90
minutes regardless of who is on the field is crucial to avoid overconfidence in these circumstances. Bob
Bradley spoke to the media during training this week on what to expect from RSL and how to approach
this match: “Real Salt Lake is going to be organized; they’re going to try to play hard and have a plan on
how to stop us. We have to have good football ideas, we’ve got to know how to break them down and
we’ve got to have a good plan in terms of the balance between possession but also looking forward and
going at teams quickly”. If you ask me, the key to winning this match will be to remain composed and
not let RSL frustrate you, which is exactly what they are going to try and do. Bob said it best, “they’re
going to have a plan on how to stop us”, which tells me that RSL will play the destroyer role and hope
for a circumstantial goal that they can use to their advantage.
Getting a goal early will make things much easier for LAFC so I am sure that they will come out at full
speed from the first minute. The game will be there for the taking as I believe LAFC get their third
consecutive win at home and their first shutout of the season. See you all at the Banc!
Follow me on Twitter @lafcbenjamin to talk LAFC, ask questions or send comments. Thank you
for reading and Stay Golden!