Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United FC
Rio Tinto Stadium | Sandy, Utah
08.31.2022 | MLS Week No. 28 | MLS Game 28
8:30 p.m. CT (MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Bally Sports North Extra, 1500 ESPN)
Fresh off of dominating two-thirds of Texas, Minnesota United are heading to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake for the second time this season. Both teams find themselves occupying playoff positions in the Western Conference going into this matchup, but the Loons will be far more comfortable with their point tally than their opponents are. With the final stretch of the season upon us, this game promises to be quite the intriguing affair.
Run of Form: D-L-W-W-W
Despite a slow start in what felt a lot like a trap game against Houston this weekend, MNUFC managed a late comeback to keep their hot-streak alive. Perhaps the most interesting part of the Loons recent run of form has been the variety of ways they have found results. They have proven an ability to win close contests, come from behind, and score almost at will sometimes. In fact, the Loons haven’t been held scoreless since a May match against NYCFC. In each of the 13 games since then, they have managed to find a way to hit the back of the net. In a league filled with parity, most teams can only maintain a streak of form for a few weeks at a time before they need to recharge. For the better part of three months, Minnesota United have proven that they have something special going on at Allianz Field this year.
Real Salt Lake:
Run of Form: D-L-W-D-D
Despite losing just one of their last five games, RSL seems to have become stagnant. The story of their 2022 season has been filled with streaky play, stringing together three or four good performances, only to follow that up with a few mediocre showings. They’re keeping their heads above water, but unless they find a way to turn those draws into wins, they may miss out on the playoffs this year. A win on Wednesday would do a lot for the RSL locker room as they look to finish the season strong, so expect an especially motivated home side tomorrow.
Keys to the Match
Whistle to Whistle -
Against Houston, MNUFC came out a bit slow and sloppy. Regardless of the reasons for that, the Loons cannot afford a slow start against a much less forgiving Real Salt Lake outfit. While they aren’t the flashiest team in MLS, RSL have shown that they will fight tooth-and-nail for the entire 90 minutes in every single match. Last time these two met, the Loons allowed two late goals in the second half. While that wasn’t enough to overtake MNUFC’s 3-0 lead, it served as a warning: don’t take your foot off the gas until you cross the finish line. As every youth soccer coach yells at their team, play to the whistle.
Find Yourself -
The most important thing to focus on in this match will be beginning to understand the depth and versatility of the squad. The latter stages of any season are demanding and difficult, making it necessary to utilize the whole bench. Now is the time to figure out the best way to use Ménder García, Jonathan González, and the rest of the squad. With Bakaye Dibassy out for the rest of the season, who comes in to fill that slot long-term? RSL is the perfect opponent to use to find answers to those questions. They present a competent, hardworking opponent that won’t give away anything without a fight. However, their relative lack of flare and attacking threat makes them exactly the kind of team that can help you fine-tune your own tactics and strategy while playing against high-level opposition.
Use Those Fullbacks -
In recent games, the play of Alan Benítez and DJ Taylor has been crucial to MNUFC’s success. Not only have they popped up at opportune times in the attack, they have also stepped up in their defensive responsibilities. In a league where fullbacks tend to be an afterthought, the Loons have found a core of attacking fullbacks — including Kemar Lawrence — that understand the position in a way that has contributed tremendously to the team’s shape and effectiveness with the ball. If they can continue to find the right times to make a run down the flanks, RSL will be too busy scrambling to deal with overloaded defensive positions to work up any kind of rhythm of their own.