HERRIMAN, UT (Thursday, March 9, 2023) – Real Salt Lake (West t-2, 1-1-0, 3 pts.) returns home to its America First Field fortress for MLS Matchday Three, welcoming Austin FC (West t-2, 1-1-0, 3 pts.) to Utah on Saturday (7:30p MT kickoff on the Apple MLS Season Pass w/ Keith Costigan, Maurice Edu (ENG) & Jorge Perez-Navarro, Marcelo Balboa (SPN); 6:30p MT radio pre-game w/ David James & Jay Nolly via www.KSLSports.com / 1280 AM / 97.5 FM and www.KSLNewsRadio.com / 1160 AM).
Real Salt Lake kicks off the home portion of its 19th campaign in Club history with what is expected to be a highly-charged playoff rematch from last October in Austin, as Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side now commences a run that sees RSL at home for five of its next seven MLS matches and seven of its next overall 10 contests.
RSL v ATX GAME NOTES, inc. 2023 RSL STORYLINES: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6w98kriy9cr91sw/031123%20RSLvATX.pdf?dl=0
RSL has enjoyed great success in home openers over the years, posting a 7-1-6 (W-L-T) record in Sandy at the venue now known as America First Field, outscoring opponents 26-17 on aggregate, with the lone loss a brutal 1-5 decision coming in 2018 against expansion LAFC. During the entirety of the Club’s 18-year history, RSL is 8-1-9 overall (31-21 on aggregate), including the early Rice-Eccles years.
Despite last week’s scoreless 0-2 result at Seattle, RSL kicks off the home stint with 3 points from a pair of road turf matches, courtesy a come-from-behind, 2-1 win at Vancouver on Feb. 25. This week, RSL will once again look to improve upon its record in “bounceback” games under Mastroeni, RSL now 10-2-6 (W-L-T), earning a result in 16 of 18 matches following a loss and suffering back-to-back losses just twice in the former USMNT star’s 56 games at the RSL helm. Under Mastroeni’s leadership, RSL is now 13-7-5 (W-L-T) on Utah soil against MLS opponents following last year’s dominant “Decision Day” win over Portland.
VERDE vs CLARET/COBALT
RSL split the season series with Austin during the 2022 MLS reg. season, each side winning at home. On May 14 of last year, RSL conceded first to the second-year “Verde” side, falling behind 0-1 at halftime. However, a 54th-minute equalizer from MF Maikel Chang – one of his two goals on the year – was followed by a dramatic 87th-minute game-winner from DF Andrew Brody, his first MLS goal of two last season, to give RSL the 2-1 victory.
In mid-Sept., RSL visited Q2 Stadium for midweek action between a pair of Saturday home matches, the crowded three-game week forcing Mastroeni to heavily rotate lineups. As a result, RSL switched to a 3-5-2 and saw several starters – including FW Jefferson Savarino, FW Sergio Cordova, MF Pablo Ruiz, DF Marcelo Silva, MF Justin Meram & MF Jasper Löffelsend – benched in favor of others. That night at Q2, Paraguayan U-22 MF Braian Ojeda made his first start for RSL while fellow Summer transfer DF Bryan Oviedo made just his second – on the right wing – with MF Diego Luna, FW Anderson Julio, FW Rubio Rubin and DF Johan Kappelhof earning rare insertions into the XI.
RSL was bright for the first 60 minutes, seeing several chances go wanting or parried away by an outstanding Brad Stuver performance. Despite the extended time on the front foot away from home, RSL saw the game change when the substitutions of Cordova, Meram and others lose momentum, as ATX FW Moussa Djitte scored three goals in 23 minutes to blow the game open en route to a 3-0 home win for the Texas side.
In the opening playoff match for RSL and ATX, RSL burst ahead 2-0 in the first 15 minutes, courtesy a pair of Cordova goals; but Austin pulled one back before halftime, and the game changed with FW Rubio Rubin’s second yellow in the 57th minute, RSL forced to play with 10 men for the final 63 minutes. A late equalizer from the spot following a 92+ Scott Caldwell handball forced extra time, and a wilted RSL was unable to compete in kicks from the penalty mark, allowing the home side to go through to the Conference Semifinals.
Back on January 6, RSL kicked off its 2023 preseason with 45 players in camp, a total which did not include two international additions – Colombian attacker Andrés Gómez (U22 initiative signing from Millonarios F.C.) and TAM defender Brayan Vera (America de Cali). Gómez – signed on Jan. 11 – joined the team prior to its Tucson stint and became the 191st player to appear for RSL in MLS action over the last 19 seasons, while Vera – signed a month ago – is hopefully expected to arrive in Utah prior to the team’s March 11 home opener.
Twenty of the 26 returning Claret-and-Cobalt players from last season played a total of nearly 27,000 minutes across a 34-game MLS regular-season campaign that saw RSL (12W-11L-11T) amass 47 points and capture the 7th and final Western Conference playoff seed, reaching the postseason for the fourth time in the last five years and the 12th occasion in the last 15 seasons.
A season ago, Real Salt Lake captured the full three points on “Decision Day” to snare the 7th and final Western Conference seed, the Claret-and-Cobalt qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the 12th time in its last 15 seasons (DNQ 2015, 2017, 2020). For the second consecutive year – both under Mastroeni’s supervision – RSL utilized “Decision Day” drama and a “must-win” scenario to advance to the postseason for a fourth occasion in the last five years, despite three different ownership situations, three different head coaches and three different postseason formats during that period.
Visit www.RSL.com for 2023 season tickets at America First Field in Sandy, with RSL’s 2023 home opener scheduled for Sat., March 11 against Austin FC. The Utah side looks to build upon last year’s 17 consecutive MLS sellouts and a NEW Club-high average attendance of 20,470, RSL’s standard after 18 MLS seasons. During the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Real Salt Lake has posted a 17-7-9 (W-L-T) reg. season mark in Sandy, one of the League’s most dominant home records in that time.