Real Salt Lake will look to rebound from another lopsided loss Saturday night when they host the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium (7 p.m. MDT). RSL (2-3-1) comes into the match after a 4-0 drubbing in New York City last Wednesday and a bye over the weekend. Colorado (2-1-2), conversely, enters the match on a four match unbeaten streak , fresh off a 2-0 defeat over a reserve-laden Toronto FC last Saturday.
The Claret-and-Cobalt followed up their two losses prior to the NYCFC blowout with bounce back victories and they’ll be looking to do the same against the Rapids.
“I guess we don’t have another option after those kind of performances,” midfielder Albert Rusnak said after training earlier in the week. “The only thing we can do is bounce back with a win.”
Rusnak followed his initial comments up by making a plea to the RSL faithful to remain behind their team.
“There is something in this team that we still believe in, and hopefully the fans keep believing. But we have to win the game against Colorado,” He said.
With the built-in rivalry element as the two teams compete for the Rocky Mountain Cup, which is awarded to the better team after their three head-to-head matches, forward Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo isn’t placing more weight on this match than any other.
“In general, the next game is the most important – to get a point or three points. But I don’t want to lose,” He said.
“We can’t control everything,” Saucedo continued. “There are times where we want to do our best so we can give our fans a win [but] we don’t give that sometimes. We have to look forward to the next game to see what we can do.”
RSL has dealt with numerous injuries since the outset of training camp and this week will be no different. Coach Mike Petke said backup goalkeeper Alex Horwath stepped wrong during training on Thursday and injured his right Achilles tendon. Petke said he didn’t know if it was a complete tear but indicated that Horwath faces a significant recovery period.
Petke also said veteran centerback David Horst is dealing with a knee issue and that he didn’t have a recovery timetable but declared Horst as being out for the Colorado match. Here’s the injury report for the match:
OUT: D – David Horst (knee), GK – Alex Horwath (right Achilles), D – Tony Beltran (right knee surgery), M – Jordan Allen (knee), D – Taylor Peay (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: D – Shawn Barry (hamstring), M – Luke Mulholland (hamstring), D – Demar Phillips (ankle), D – Marcelo Silva (groin)
With the roster being stretched thin at centerback with Justen Glad as the lone healthy body on the depth chart, RSL will have to again play with a makeshift back four. Nick Besler, listed as a midfielder on the roster, could be in line to make his first team debut alongside Glad. Besler has been playing at centerback for Real Monarchs SLC.
He also has the bloodlines to play the position (listed at 6-1 on the roster) as his older brother, Matt, has been a stalwart at centerback for Sporting Kansas City and was a first choice starter for the United States Men’s National Team for time.
Outside back will continue to be a position in flux. Last week’s starters against NYCFC, Brooks Lennon and Adam Henley, could be in line to start at right and left back, respectively. Danilo Acosta could also get a look at left back as he continues to work back into the first team discussion.
At forward, it will remain to be seen if Joao Plata regains his starting position on the left wing after training without restriction this week. Rookie Corey Baird has started at the position the last two matches.
Mike Petke was asked after training on Friday if the “little things” he has referred to multiple times as being the key to getting the club back to the stellar form they showed in the latter half of the 2017 season.
“Of course we want to get back to where we know we can get. I don’t wanna say back to where we were last year [but] where we know we’re capable of getting [to]. This week’s training sessions have been great but we’ll see what happens tomorrow night,” He said.
You can watch tomorrow night’s match beginning with pregame coverage from Rio Tinto Stadium at 6:30 p.m. with David James and Brian Dunseth on the call on KMYU, ESPN+, the KSL TV App or KSL.com. Tickets to the match can be found online at www.ksl.com/classifieds/tickets/realsaltlake.