RSL Looks to Snap Quakes' Home Streak
Real Salt Lake will be hoping that little has changed in the course of a year when the team takes on the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night.
The Quakes are riding a 20-game home undefeated streak in all competitions, which they extended on Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League action with a 1-1 draw against Toluca. However, RSL was the last team to win there, earning a 2-0 win in the MLS season opener on March 3, 2013, and they'll be looking to replicate that feat in the team's second match of the 2014 campaign.
While the task looks daunting on paper, Real is coming off an important 1-0 win at LA last week, with Joao Plata providing the game's only goal and Nick Rimando providing some last-minute heroics in goal to preserve the victory. RSL is likely to go with largely the same lineup that started against the Galaxy, as Chris Schuler, Sebastian Velasquez, Robbie Findley, and Devon Sandoval still recovering from their injuries. Head coach Jeff Cassar may opt to shake things up in the midfield.
Real's defense will need to keep track of the Quakes' wily attackers -- Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, and Alan Gordon have all proved their individual abilities against RSL in the past -- but the strong performance of the Real back four against Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane last week bodes well for the visitors' chances.
There will be a few familiar faces for RSL fans on the Quakes bench. After spending last season with RSL and earning several starts in midfield, Khari Stephenson has returned to San Jose. In addition, the Quakes picked up Real's first-round draft pick, Ryan Neil, after Salt Lake declined to sign the defender during preseason. Atiba Harris, who played for RSL several seasons ago, also joined San Jose during the off-season.
Tactically, RSL will need to adjust to the smaller confines of Buck Shaw Stadium after last week's outing on the wider, more spacious field at the Stub Hub Center. Tight, quick transitions through the midfield will be important as Real looks to push the ball forward to Plata and Alvaro Saborio and to limit counterattacking opportunities on the other end of the pitch.
Both teams have relatively new head coaches in charge, though -- Cassar was promoted in the offseason after spending several years with RSL as an assistant, and San Jose's Mark Watson took charge in the middle of the 2013 season -- meaning that the tactical maneuvering on the pitch may look a bit different than a year ago.
However, on paper, it looks to be a close match-up -- one that could make a tremendous difference in RSL's 2014 season as it looks to build a new winning streak of its own.
Quakes Hit 94th Minute Goal to Tie Toluca in CONCACAF CL
* Should you think there is copyright infringement in this content, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org