The Houston Dynamo are coming off their first winning streak of the season after besting New York City FC 3-1 at home and now head on a two game road trip to face Real Salt Lake today and then the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo.
I discussed some of the lineup possibilities that Wilmer Cabrera will have to limit the heavy minutes to players in our Pick the Lineup series, but I wanted to know what was going on with our opponent so I spoke with Randal Serr of RSL Soapbox to learn more.
Dynamo Theory: Real Salt Lake currently sits 9th place with 16 points so far in the season and are not far behind teams higher up the table. Overall how would you assess RSL’s season so far and what do they need to do to move up the table?
RSL Soapbox: RSL set fans’ expectations pretty high with their showings the second half of 2017. The first half was a nightmare, but out of nowhere Real Salt Lake beat the Galaxy handily on the road and it seemed to be a catalyst for a turnaround. They then played some of the best soccer in the league the rest of the year and came one point shy of making the MLS Playoffs. Coming into this season, Real made a couple of additions that had us excited, but we seem to have regressed. It’s a strange thing. RSL did, however, get their first road win of 2018 on Sunday and even though it was against a struggling Seattle team, Salt Lake looked as good as they have all year. I’m hoping that game was a catalyst for the rest of the season much like the Galaxy game was last season. Real has had very good moments, but the last game was their first complete 90-minute showing.
DT: RSL and Houston both have short turnarounds this week with a double game week, but RSL has another double game week next week with the US Open Cup (come on schedulers). How will Mike Petke manage the minutes of his players and what changes could we see against Houston?
RSL Soapbox: My assumption is that RSL will use pretty much every player on its roster to make it through these four games in about a week and a half. That rotation already started against Seattle last Sunday with a couple of players going their first full 90 and another making his debut. While not ideal, I kind of enjoy these quick turnaround games because you get to see substantial minutes from players that typically don’t see much more than time-wasting minutes. Every player will get a chance to prove themselves over the course of these 11 days, and that’s exciting. It’s an opportunity, especially considering that RSL leads MLS in minutes played by young players.
DT: The backline for RSL has given up quite a few goals this season. What’s helped account for them giving up the 3rd most goals and how will they be prepared to stop an offense heavy Dynamo team?
RSL Soapbox: RSL suffered a lot of injuries on the back line and it has taken a toll on them as evidenced by the goals against statistic. Tony Beltran, Marcelo Silva, David Horst, Demar Phillips, Adam Henley, Aaron Herrera, Shawn Berry, and Taylor Peay were or all injured in 2018. RSL got creative on its back line to fill the voids playing players out of position more often than they would have preferred. At the end of the day, that has a lot to do with the amount of goals that RSL conceded. However, it is not an excuse. RSL’s midfield defense has not always looked organized and in spurts, the forwards have not shown the required commitment to defend either. Lately, things have looked quite a bit better and players are returning to health slowly but surely. We are all waiting for the return of Beltran who has been the leader of the back line for the past five years at least.
For my answers to Randal’s excellent questions, please check them out at RSL Soapbox!