Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas
2017 MLS Regular Season
Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, Utah
Saturday, May 6 | 9:30 pm ET
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Few players in MLS history are as deeply linked to one club as Javier Morales is to Real Salt Lake, which makes Saturday's encounter – the first in which the Argentine playmaker will set foot on the Rio Tinto Stadium pitch wearing opposition colors – a momentous one. Morales left RSL for FC Dallas as a free agent this offseason, a move that signaled both the end of an era and a changing of the guard.
It's been mostly smooth sailing for Morales at his new club, as FCD are the league's only unbeaten team and lead the Western Conference in points per game. For RSL, new playmaker Albert Rusnak has ably filled Morales's shoes, but the injury-ravaged backline in Utah has been easy pickings for the league's better attackers.
Real Salt Lake
The injury-fueled crisis on the backline deepens this week thanks to the suspension of Chris Schuler, who ran afoul of the Disciplinary Committee for a rash challenge in last weekend's 3-0 loss at Sporting KC. Aaron Maund, who was a presumptive starter entering the season, could conceivably figure into the XI after going 60 minutes on a rehab assignment for Real Monarchs last weekend, but it's still a case of mix-and-match for manager Mike Petke in trying to patch up the defense.
RSL's attack should be in better shape, with Rusnak and DP forward Yura Movsisyan leading the way. But Petke had to discipline Joao Plata this week for tardiness and the other, younger options, have proved to be exciting but inconsistent. The central midfield, meanwhile, has also been in flux while dealing with injuries, suspensions and inconsistent distribution from deep.
That's how you get a team that's won just two of their nine outings, and are in desperate need of some cohesion and momentum.
- Suspensions: D - Chris Schuler (Disciplinary Committee)
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: F - Chad Barrett (knee surgery, 4-6 months); OUT: D - David Horst (knee surgery, 6-8 weeks); QUESTIONABLE: M - Jordan Allen (right quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: D - Justen Glad (knee injury); QUESTIONABLE: D - Tony Beltran (back injury); QUESTIONABLE: D - Aaron Maund (left hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: GK - Nick Rimando (hamstring injury); QUESTIONABLE M - Kyle Beckerman (calf strain)
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): GK: Matt Van Oekel - Danny Acosta, Aaron Maund, Chris Wingert, Demar Phillips - Kyle Beckerman, Stephen Sunday, Albert Rusnak - Brooks Lennon, Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata
Notes: Movsisyan had 14 touches in 60 minutes played against Sporting Kansas City last weekend. It was the lowest number of touches he has taken when playing at least 60 minutes in an MLS game since rejoining RSL.
Dallas are pretty close to the team everybody thought they'd be in 2017: A dominant defensive group that's murderous on the counter but, at times, can struggle to turn what possession they do manage into meaningful penetration, let alone danger. They're still adjusting to the sale of Fabian Castillo last summer and the loss of Mauro Diaz to a ruptured Achilles' last autumn, and while Morales has helped, he hasn't been a cure-all.
Not that anybody's panicking. FCD are 4-0-3 in their seven games with 10 goals scored and only five conceded despite integrating several new pieces and waiting – patiently – for DP left back Anibal Chala to get fully fit and stake a claim on a starting job. They're also hoping that their other big offseason signing, forward Cristian Colman, will start converting on some of the chances he finds. Colman began the season as a starter, but has slipped out of the lineup in recent weeks and hasn't started a game since mid-March.
If he's back in the lineup for Dallas, it'll likely mean a 4-4-2. If it's Morales instead, it'll mean a 4-2-3-1. That's the big choice for Oscar Pareja since the rest of the squad pretty much picks itself.
- Suspensions: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: Mauro Diaz (torn Achilles' tendon)
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): GK: Jesse Gonzalez - Hernan Grana, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa - Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta - Michael Barrios, Javier Morales, Roland Lamah - Maxi Urruti
Notes: Dallas is the only team in the league that has yet to score in the first 30 minutes of any MLS game so far this year.
- Overall: Real Salt Lake 11 wins (39 goals)... Dallas 17 wins (46 goals)... Ties 6
- At RSL: Real Salt Lake 10 wins (29 goals)... Dallas 5 wins (19 goals)... Ties 4
- Referee: Drew Fischer
- Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Jeffrey Greeson
- 4th Referee: Allen Chapman