HERRIMAN, UT (Friday, March 24, 2023) – Real Salt Lake (West t-4, 1-2-0, 3 pts.) returns home to its America First Field fortress for MLS Matchday Five, welcoming St. Louis City SC (West 1, 4-0-0, 12 pts.) to Utah on Saturday (7:30p MT kickoff on the Apple MLS Season Pass w/ Max Bretos / Brian Dunseth (ENG) & Francisco X. Rivera / Claudio Suarez (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 looks to snap a two-game losing streak and avoid a pair of aberrations with at least a point Saturday, as RSL has never opened a season with back-to-back home losses in its first two home games (only in 2006, 2007 and 2018 did RSL manage just one point from a possible six), and has not lost three consecutive matches since late in the Covid-afflicted 2020 season. RSL continues the home portion of its 19th campaign with what is expected to be a highly-charged maiden match between a red-hot STL – as expansion sides are 3W-9L-2T all-time in inaugural years on Utah soil – and RSL, as Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side now continues a run that sees RSL at home for four of its next six MLS matches and six of its next overall nine contests.
Despite dropping its last match with a home-opening 1-2 loss to Austin, RSL will once again look to improve upon its record in “bounceback” games under Mastroeni, RSL now 10-3-6 (W-L-T), earning a result in 16 of 19 matches following a loss and suffering back-to-back losses just three times in the former USMNT star’s 57 games at the RSL helm. Under Mastroeni’s leadership, RSL is now 13-8-5 (W-L-T) on Utah soil against MLS opponents following last year’s dominant “Decision Day” win over Portland.
Mastroeni and staff will be forced to employ a new-look XI and 20 against St. Louis, as RSL is one of 8 MLS teams this weekend to lose 4 or more players to international duty. FW Rubio Rubin (Guatemala), MF Braian Ojeda (Paraguay), MF Diego Luna (USA U-20) and GK Gavin Beavers (USA U-19) are away, while FW Jefferson Savarino was called into Venezuela, but declined the invite due to a nagging calf issue that makes his RSL service Saturday questionable.
Several others have been bit by the injury bug during the bye week and preparation for STL, as DF Marcelo Silva (hamstring), DF Erik Holt (achilles tendonitis), DF Bryan Oviedo (calf), FW Danny Musovski (ankle) are each questionable for this week, with FW Axel Kei (quadriceps), DF Zack Farnsworth (ankle) and DF Bode Hidalgo (hamstring) all out.
With that dozen in question, RSL does see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel as at least two players who spent the first three matchdays out of the country awaiting immigration resolution arrived in Utah on March 10, as perennial 2021/22 starter MF Pablo Ruiz, who started 28 games a year ago, was finally awarded his U.S. green card. Also, 24-year-old Colombian DF Brayan Vera, signed in early February from América de Calí as a TAM acquisition, provides cover at both left back and center back rotations for Saturday against STL and beyond.
Finally, RSL could see each of its three 2023 MLS SuperDraft rookie draft picks in the XI or 20 this weekend, as Generation adidas signings FW Ilijah Paul and FW Bertin Jacquesson have impressed in both RSL and Monarchs preseasons, along with DF Emeka Eneli from Cornell, who has demonstrated great versatility on both the left and right sides, along the back line in a back four and on either wing in a back three.