Denz of RSL SoapBox, SB Nation's Real Salt Lake blog, and I exchanged three questions a piece ahead of tonight's Union-RSL match at Rio Tinto. Read my responses to Denz's questions by clicking on the linked text here.
tBG: What has sent RSL into such a freefall (though that may be hyperbole)?
RSLSB: Injuries have really hit us hard, it is easy to just look at the Javier Morales injury but the real issue goes beyond that, the slow recovery of Paulo Jr. from hamstring issues, the injury in the MLS All Star match that Jamison Olave suffered, Ned Grabavoy, Chris Winget, and the list goes on and on. I also would say a few flukish plays and mistakes have been huge, both the late Plata goal in Toronto, the stoppage time goal in Houston, would anyone be worried if those two ended in draws?
I think the key will be hitting stride in Sept. And Oct. Which will carry a team into the playoffs and I can't consider 39 points from 24 matches a cause for panic.
tBG: Are fans/media clamoring about this game as a "must win" for RSL, much like some in Philly are saying about the Union?
RSLSB: I think for RSL the key is making sure to get maximum points at home, so I consider every home match a must win. I think Philly has to be wondering how they got so lucky to have RSL reschedule this match from this spring. After a 5-1-0 start to the season, facing a RSL without Morales, Saborio, Alvarez, and Johnson has too seem like a gift from the soccer gods, so I expect that the Union will consider this a match they can get some points from.
tBG: Without the CCL weighing upon them, is RSL in a spot to make a run heading into the playoffs as the team recovers from injuries and poor form?
RSLSB: I believe so, Javi is progressing well in his recovery, others are getting back to match shape. While the 4 other teams in front of us all have CCL matches, RSL will need to take advantage of their matches in hand and experience of playoff matches to make sure they peak at the right time.