The Houston Dynamo return home after getting their first road point of the season when they played rivals FC Dallas. It’s a short turnaround having just played Sunday and it is the second time in a few weeks the team will have played 3 games in 8 days. The Dynamo hope to remain unbeaten at home when Real Salt Lake visits today. With so many minutes played and another game coming up this Sunday, RSL will hope to steal one with the Dynamo looking ahead to their next fixture. We did want to know more from our opponent’s perspective though so we spoke with Matt Montgomery at RSL Soapbox to see what insight he can provide about his club.
Dynamo Theory: Real Salt Lake has had its ups and downs the past few seasons and was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last year. What has the front office done in the offseason to improve the squad from last year and what are the expectations about how this club will do in 2017?
RSL Soapbox: You know, it's a funny thing. Our squad has improved, I think. We brought in Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo, who have been excellent, even if they're currently on international duty. We've kept Danilo Acosta moving forward at a good pace. We've signed Albert Rusnak, who could be a real talent and has shown well, and Jefferson Savarino, who is lighting things up on the right flank. So in that regard, things are going well. We've become a much younger team.
But at the same time, firing Jeff Cassar as coach after a few games made all of this difficult. I think it was probably the right move, and I'm really excited about Mike Petke as the man in charge — but that's given us some of those ups and downs, too. We're improving, certainly. It's just sometimes hard to tell how.
DT: At 14 points RSL sits in 10th place in the West, but is only a few points away from being in a playoff position. What’s been one of the biggest contributing issues for the club coming into the summer and what can new Head Coach Mike Petke do to turn things around?
RSL Soapbox: I would never have guessed this would be a problem, but it seems like he struggled to get real buy-in from some players, and that led to a really poor string of matches. We know he publicly called out Joao Plata for his attitude and being late for training, and he called out veteran players for not helping young players along better.
But in doing that, Petke's been making his expectations very clear. He's done a few things tactically to provide some corrective action, but I think we're starting to see his strengths as a man manager more clearly. If he can get everyone on the same page, this team could be dangerous — and that says a lot about how we started the year and how last year went.
DT: With a game coming up this Saturday against FC Dallas, how do you think the double game week will impact Petke’s lineup decisions?
RSL Soapbox: You know, I suspect he'll go as full-force as possible in this one, but he'll also be limited by injuries. We're likely to see the return of Yura Movsisyan to the starting lineup after he was left on the bench at the outset against Philadelphia Union. We're almost certain to see Kyle Beckerman step back in after a suspension. For everyone else, we're in an all-hands-on-deck situation. Maybe we see a young player or two starting that we wouldn't expect, but I think we're going full-strength, more or less.
Projected Lineup: Rimando; Beltran, Schuler, Maund, Schmidt; Beckerman, Sunny, Rusnak; Savarino, Movsisyan, Plata
Predicted outcome: 3-0 RSL, for no reason other than I'd like it to be the case.
For my answers to Matt’s excellent questions check them out at RSL Soapbox!