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What we’re watching in Real Salt Lake vs LAFC

RSL’s home opener sees them host a tough LAFC team

What we’re watching in Real Salt Lake vs LAFC
Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

After two road game to start the season, Real Salt Lake have their home opener against a very good LAFC team. RSL fell 2-0 to Inter Miami on Wednesday, February 21, then drew 1-1 with St. Louis City on Saturday the 24th. Now they return home and look to improve their home record over 2023. LAFC, who are coming off a win over Seattle, look dangerous as ever.

Looking towards goal

RSL’s first 45 minutes of play this season were poor. But since then, they’ve been much more attacking-minded. They looked dangerous in the second half against Miami, and were the better team against St Louis. One major issue against Miami was Gomez’s play. He seemed totally lost and nearly incapable of connecting a pass. But he turned things around in the next game. Another issue was Chicho's play. He found himself offside numorus times last Saturday, and often had a poor first touch. That could be early season rust, and even with those issues, he still gave RSL the (short-lived) lead.

Matt Crooks

We’ve only see about a half hour of play from Matt Crooks, but in that short amount of time, the RSL newcomer was able to provide a wonderful assist. The attacking midfielder fills a hole that RSL refused to fill for a number of years. While Diego Luna is the obvious player to have at the 10, he’s still effective on the wing and that is clearly where the team intends to play him. Crooks provides something completely different from other players in that position. Height comes to mind. He certainly towers over Luna, Rusnak, and Morales. He’s a bit taller than Damir Kreilach, but he plays the position naturally. His vision on the Chicho goal against St. Louis shows a lot of promise. If he can start, which means Ruiz can play further back where he's more effective, then RSL's attack starts to take shape for the season.

The opposition

LAFC underwent a good deal of change this offseason. They lost players like Kellyn Acosta, Giorgio Chiellini, Maxime Crépeau, and Diego Palacios. But they’ve strengthened with signings like the returning Eduard Atuesta, Omar Campos from Santos Laguna, World Cup winner and former Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris, and 18 year old winger David Martínez.

In their opening match of the season, they were able to beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 and were the deserved winners of that match. LAFC hit the crossbar an astounding three times, and the only goal they conceded was a penalty. They kept up good pressure throughout the game and show all the hallmarks of continuing to be the powerhouse LAFC we’ve seen since they joined the league.

Player availability

Out: Kevin Bonilla (knee injury), Alex Katranis (work visa procurement)

Questionable: Brayan Vera (right ankle)

Predicted lineup

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