Game: Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union
Date: Saturday, March 14th
Time: 9:30 PM
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium
Television: The Comcast Network, MLS LIVE
First goal wins! Ok, maybe not, but with both sides being involved in scoreless draws last week, they'll both be chomping at the bit to celebrate a goal this week. Last year, these teams played to a 2-2 draw in their only meeting, at PPL Park. The match was a rescued from a loss by Maurice Edu scoring a header in the 90th minute. That match also saw Andrew Wenger score his first goal in the blue-and-gold.
What Philadelphia Will Look Like
The injury to CJ Sapong and with Cristian Maidana being effective early as a sub lead me to believe that Jim Curtin will go back to his more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation to start. Fernando Aristeguieta was bottled up by Colorado's taller center backs, the 6'5" Bobby Burling and the 6'7" Axel Sjoberg. He may find it easier going against merely 6'4" Chris Schuler and 6'3" Jamison Olave. 'Nando will be aided in the attack by Andrew Wenger and Sebastien Le Toux off of the wings, and I'd expect Maidana to play in the CAM role. It's difficult to know how good Union's defense is at present since the Colorado Rapids made so few attempts to challenge them. Steven Vitoria seemed to handle the stage well, but he and Ethan White have a bit of work to do to become a cohesive unit. Alvaro Saborio and Olmes Garcia stand to ask more questions of the rearguard than were posed last week.
Raymon Gaddis, a selection for the Sports Illustrated Best XI in Week 1, was much more competent in his attacking play than last season, which could mean good things for an added wrinkle to the attack. Philadelphia's central midfield was completely bottled up by Colorado, so it will be important for Gaddis and his counterpart Sheanon Williams to continue being effective avenues to the attacking third. RSL's talisman Kyle Beckerman will be a key figure for keeping the visitors at bay.
What Real Salt Lake Will Look Like
Last week, on the road against the Portland Timbers, RSL deployed a 4-3-3. This would be an interesting idea against Philadelphia, considering Colorado just showed that bunching the midfield up is the way to neutralize the Union. But, Beckerman is among the best in MLS at his position, so it would not be out of the question for manager Jeff Cassar to ask the dreadlocked one to solely take on that responsibility. Salt Lake's forward trio of Saborio, Garcia, and Sebastian Jaime could expose any weakness that crops up between Union's center back pairing.
The attack can be bolstered by adding in Devon Sandoval or Luke Mulholland, but their defense is the most impressive aspect of thie team. Aside from the formidable central defense, they are backed by US international Nick Rimando. He's not the physically imposing prototypical goalkeeper, but he's on the short list for best shot stoppers in the league.
What to Expect
Union were unable to unlock Colorado, who sat back bunkered. Philly possessed the ball for long portions of the match, but their individual efforts were not enough. RSL is also quite difficult to beat while in their set, organized defense. Look for Union to invite RSL to press them so that RSL's formation is stretched and Union can hit them on a quick counter attack. I'd expect Saborio to test Vitoria and White to see who can mark him, and how quick their feet are once he has possession around the 18. Predictiion: Union 1, RSL 1.