HERRIMAN, Utah (Wednesday, September 13, 2023) – Four Real Salt Lake players now return to Major League Soccer action after representing their home nations internationally during the recent FIFA window, as Kevon Lambert (Jamaica), Braian Ojeda (Paraguay), Rubio Rubin (Guatemala) and Jefferson Savarino (Venezuela) re-integrate into the Utah side following international duty. Each player is expected to be available this Saturday, September 16, as RSL participates in MLS Matchday 31 with an 8:30p MT kickoff at PayPal Park in San Jose against the Earthquakes.
RSL’s recent history in San Jose – consecutive road results in 2021 and 2022, with late-game heroics from Savarino (2022 stoppage-time equalizer) and Rubin (81st-minute game-winner in 4-3 thriller) earning points for the Claret-and-Cobalt – contribute to a run that has seen RSL unbeaten in four of its last six overall against the Earthquakes the last three seasons, including a dominant 3-1 home win back in April. With a win Saturday, RSL would set a new single-season franchise-high mark with its seventh road win of the campaign.
On the international front, here is how each RSL player performed:
- Winger Jefferson Savarino participated in both games during the window, as Real Salt Lake’s leading goalscorer thus far in 2023 has scored nine times in all competitions and leads RSL for its league-specific Golden Boot with six goals. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has now appeared in 34 senior team matches for Los Vinotintos, scoring twice; “Sava” started and played 59 minutes in Venezuela’s 1-0 road loss at Colombia late last week, while coming off the bench and sparking the side to a 1-0 home win over Paraguay on Tuesday.
- Striker Rubio Rubin started in each of Guatemala’s home Nations League dates, playing 77 minutes in a 2-0 win over El Salvador and 75 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Panama, the newly engaged forward now boasting five goals in 15 matches since his debut with Guatemala in May, 2022, including two goals in three games played in the most recent Gold Cup for Los Chapines. Rubin, 27, appeared in seven games for the U.S. National Team, but employed his one-time switch to represent his mother’s birth country.
- Defender Kevon Lambert’s recall to represent Jamaica arrived on the heels of an outstanding Gold Cup for the Reggae Boyz, with this selection his first as a member of Real Salt Lake, for which he made his MLS debut on August 26. Lambert now boasts 24 appearances for Jamaica’s senior team, playing the final 13 minutes of a 1-0 home win over Honduras and not appearing off the bench in a 2-2 home draw with Haiti;
- The 23-year-old two-way midfielder Braian Ojeda remains at eight appearances in the last two years for Paraguay, making the bench but not appearing in action in either game this window, on the heels of 16 appearances for various Albirroja youth national teams. Four of Ojeda’s eight Paraguayan caps came in the most recent CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying cycle.
The next FIFA international window that could affect various availabilities occurs Oct. 9-17, during which RSL will travel to face the LA Galaxy on Sat., Oct. 14 at Dignity Health Sports Park in a game rescheduled due to Hurricane Hilary in mid-September; other RSL players representing youth sides for the U.S., Colombia and the senior team for Ecuador could be affected by a potential “Club vs. Country” decision during that window, as RSL pursues postseason positioning with the critical match at the Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake (11-9-7, 40 pts., t-3rd West) welcomes its international quartet back into the training mix ahead of its resumption of the 2023 season, RSL’s 19th in Major League Soccer. RSL will travel to face the San Jose Earthquakes (9-9-9, 36 pts., 8th West) on Saturday, Sept. 16, with kickoff at 8:30p MT (Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass / KSL Radio).
RSL Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side enters the final seven games of the season one point shy of second-place Seattle (11-9-8, 41 pts., 2nd West), although RSL has played one fewer game than the Sounders. The Utah side’s 40 points is even with reigning MLS Cup Champion and Supporters Shield holders LAFC, which have played one game fewer than RSL. Both LAFC and San Jose will travel for road games during the FIFA break on Sat., Sept. 9, with San Jose facing D.C. United and LAFC heading to Portland Timbers FC.
With 40 points accumulated through 27 games of the 2023 MLS campaign, Real Salt Lake is part of a seven-team glut from 2nd to 8th place in the Western Conference separated by just four points in the race for the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs (nine teams), RSL seeking its first home postseason match since 2019.
Real Salt Lake’s road record of 6-4-3 (21 pts.) is the best in the West, while a victory in one of RSL’s remaining four away matches would set a new Club record for road wins in a season. Following the San Jose trip on Saturday, RSL travels to LA twice – at LAFC on Oct. 1 and at LA Galaxy on Oct. 14 – prior to a Decision Day trip to suburban Denver on Oct. 21 against Rocky Mountain Cup rival Colorado.
Throughout 2023, Mastroeni and staff have utilized 29 players across three competitions, advancing to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal and the Leagues Cup Round of 16. Following the San Jose trip on Saturday, RSL hosts both Dallas and Vancouver next week, with home matches on Wed., Sept. 20 and Sat., Sept. 23 at America First Field (kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. MT), with the Club’s final reg. season home game against Kansas City on Sat., Oct. 7. Tickets for the final trio of league matches this year can be purchased at www.RSL.com/tickets, while 2023 RSL Season Ticket Members and 2024 renewals will have first choice at their seats for any potential upcoming Audi MLS Cup Playoffs home matches.
Real Salt Lake has finished each of the last two seasons in dramatic fashion, booking its place in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Decision Day with scintillating wins in both 2021 (1-0 at Kansas City) and 2022 (3-1 against Portland), advancing to the postseason in 12 of the last 15 campaigns.