Ahead of tomorrow's match between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, we sat down with RSL Soapbox (now under new management!) and had a little chat about what to expect. To see my answers, head over to RSL Soapbox. Here's what to expect from Salt Lake on Saturday:
The Galaxy got dealt a big injury blow last weekend, is RSL missing any key members?
There are no unexpected absences, but Ned Grabavoy is still being thought of as a week away from playing after sustaining a quad injury. The absence of Grabavoy shouldn't be underestimated: As the right-sided central midfielder, he'd normally be tasked with some high-profile marking responsibilities; additionally, he closes down well and would help in preventing the distance shooting.
Who replaces him will significantly affect RSL's strategy: If Luis Gil plays in Grabavoy's spot, expect Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson to share more of the pitch to close down Beckham and Juninho, but if Jonny Steele plays there, the look should remain the same — although I'd expect a rash tackle and ensuing yellow card if he plays.
Where do you expect any RSL goals to come from on Saturday?
The aerial prowess and knock-down play of Alvaro Saborio is clearly essential to an effective Real Salt Lake attack, but he's hardly the only threat on hand. Midfielder Will Johnson has been getting forward well and has been rewarded for his efforts, Javier Morales seems to have rediscovered his free kick abilities, and Fabian Espindola has hit a rich vein of form.
The easy answer remains Saborio, but in conjunction with those three, the threats are varied.
With San Jose playing as well as they are, what do you consider a realistic finish for RSL this year?
It's hard to say, really, what a realistic finish is. If we're talking regular season, anything from 2nd to 4th in the West seems likely, as the MLS scheduling gods have given us as exciting a finish as we could ask for. If we're talking playoffs, it's not unrealistic to peg RSL as MLS Cup-hopefuls, but San Jose proves a significant stumbling block for any club in their path. As expected, it all depends on these final weeks of the season, playoff seeding, and a bit of luck.