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What we’re watching in St. Louis City vs. Real Salt Lake

RSL play their second game of the season, again on the road

What we’re watching in St. Louis City vs. Real Salt Lake
Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

Real Salt Lake are coming off a poor season opener, having fallen 2-0 to Inter Miami on the opening day. Now, just three days later, they prepare to take on a strong St. Louis City team. SLC have yet to play a game this season, so it will be a fresh look for them and a chance for RSL to correct their issues on Wednesday.

Attacking movement

On Wednesday, RSL struggled to get the ball forward, especially in the first half. Team captain Chicho Arango was particularly frustrated by this when he was carrying the ball up the field but has absolutely no teammates to help him. It’s a new system. There are some key players gone from last season. But that’s a poor look from RSL. They have to correct the willingness to get into attacking positions against St. Louis.

In the second half of that game, RSL did improve in both the attack and possession, but they still were unable to score and even shipped another goal. The team seemed unable to take advantage of dangerous situations they created and only put two shots on goal in the entire game, despite Miami losing steam later in the game.

Midfield changes

Attacking midfielder Matt Crooks may be available for this game (pending work visa), and that would change the look of the team entirely. We saw Pablo Ruiz play at the 10 midweek, and it wasn’t great. It wasn’t ideal in part because Palacio and Ojeda looked a bit lost. The team passing was poor from top to bottom, but the midfield did very little to improve that.

If Ruiz is able to drop into the 8 where he's most effective, with Ojeda tasked with a more defensive role, then the outlook should improve. If Crooks can’t play, ideally we would see Luna at the 10 with Gomez paired with Chang or Julio on the wings. That's a lot of ifs, but the parts are all there to work.

The officials

It's a major story in MLS this season to start the year without their normal refs. However, due to contract disputes, they've been frozen out and lower league refs have been called in to official the games. If RSL's last game is any evidence, it's not going to work well. The ref in that game was simply unprepared to offciate at the MLS level and it showed. While officiating likely did not cost RSL the game, it's a big part in how these games playout and it's worth paying extra attention to when Real face St. Louis.

Player availability

Out Kevin Bonilla (knee injury suffered 2/14 v TOR) Alex Katranis (work visa procurement)

Questionable Matt Crooks (work visa procurement)

Short-term addition Noel Caliskan (Monarchs / MLSNP)

Predicted lineup

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