HERRIMAN, Utah (Thursday, October 5, 2023) – Real Salt Lake (13-11-7, 46 pts., 4th West) continues its 2023 season Saturday night in Sandy at America First Field, welcoming rival Sporting Kansas City (10-14-8, 38 pts., 10th West) for the Club’s final 2023 MLS regular season home contest, with a stadium-wide “RED OUT” commemorating Fan Appreciation Night.
Saturday’s kickoff starts at 7:30p MT on Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass w/ Mark Rogondino and Heath Pearce (ENG) and Adrian Garcia Marquez and Francisco Pinto (SPN). For local coverage, tune in at 6:30p MT for KSL Radio pre-game w/ David James & Jay Nolly via www.KSLSports.com / 1280 AM / 97.5 FM and www.KSLNewsRadio.com / 1160 AM).
BACK TO THE PLAYOFFS :: For a third consecutive season under the guidance of Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni, RSL advances to the postseason yet again. As a Club, RSL is playoff-bound for the fifth time in six seasons – missing only the Covid-affected 2020 campaign – and for the sixth time in the last nine seasons (2015 / 2017).
Overall, RSL has qualified for the postseason in 13 of its 16 seasons played since first advancing to the postseason in 2008, RSL’s fourth season in existence. RSL won MLS Cup in 2009, defeating the star-studded LA Galaxy via penalty-kick shootout. Four years later, RSL fell via the same tiebreaker in MLS Cup 2013 at Kansas City.
SEEDING RACE IN PACKED WEST :: Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side arrives at the final three games of the season tied on 46 points with Vancouver (32 games played) and one point ahead of Houston (32 games played), just behind both Seattle (49 points, 32 games played) and LAFC (48 points, 32 games played) as Conference powers chasing West champion St. Louis. The Utah side owns a “game-in-hand” on each of these contenders, fully in control of its destiny and guaranteed to finish No. 2 in the West should it run the table in its final three matches. Currently, RSL has distanced itself from both Portland (43 points) and San Jose (42 points) and is five or more points ahead of Dallas (41 points), Kansas City and Minnesota (38 points each).
With 46 points accumulated through 31 games of the 2023 MLS campaign, Real Salt Lake enters the final 14 days of the season as part of a five-team glut from 2nd to 6th place in the Western Conference separated by just four points in the race for a top-4 seed in the West bracket of the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, with RSL seeking its first home postseason match since 2019.
RSL 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. With RSL now occupying 2nd place in the West with the KC home match and the final two games of the year at LA Galaxy (Oct. 14) and at Colorado (Oct. 21), perhaps an early clinch is in order, with results dictating seeding and home-field advantage for the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, which feature a new format in the Round One “Best of Three” series from Oct. 28 – Nov. 12.
BACK AT HOME AGAIN :: In its last home match, back on Sept. 23, RSL rebounded from back-to-back losses to capture the full three points at home with a 2-1 victory over Vancouver, as second-half goals from Brayan Vera and Justen Glad reversed an 0-1 halftime deficit. Vera’s equalizer was his second goal scored during his first season at RSL, both coming as direct free kicks, both at home in September. Glad’s game-winner was his fifth of the season, the Homegrown centerback getting his head on an Andrés Gómez cross. The assist was Gómez’ sixth of the season, with five of the six proving to be game-winners.
ROAD WARRIORS CONCLUDE SEASON AWAY :: Following Saturday, RSL’s remaining two reg. season contests will be played on the road, where RSL has set a new Club standard with seven away MLS wins this year, plus an additional three on the road in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Next Saturday, Oct. 14, RSL travels to face the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., while this year’s “Decision Day” on Sat., October 21 sees RSL play at Colorado – its Rocky Mountain Cup rivals – with RSL looking for a fourth win across all competitions against the Rapids.
AN HISTORIC WIN LAST TIME OUT :: Real Salt Lake utilized a staunch, gritty approach to frustrate a home LAFC side last Sunday night, winning 1-0 an notching its first-ever MLS reg. season win at BMO Stadium in six tries, eventually seeing the clean sheet from GK Zac MacMath and an impenetrable full-team defense upheld by yet another glorious Chicho Arango goal, assisted by substitute Rubio Rubin.
Chicho’s game-winner was his eighth goal in 15 games with RSL across all competitions, giving him career goal No. 99 as a professional – all while wearing the Captain’s armband for the first time with the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Real Salt Lake’s massive 1-0 road win last Sunday night at LAFC vaulted RSL into second place in the West, as midseason acquisition Chicho Arango scored his eighth goal in 15 games with the Claret-and-Cobalt, which won for the first time in six reg. season visits to BMO Stadium.
RSL had dropped an 0-4 Leagues Cup decision at LAFC back on August 8, a game marred by a 9th-minute non-contact injury to metronomic midfielder Pablo Ruiz. LAFC won in Utah back in early May by a 3-0 scoreline, with this year’s results dropping RSL’s all-time, all competitions record to three wins against 12 losses in the six-year series. The highlight of the series for RSL is the 2018 postseason win in LA – secured by RSL Captain Damir Kreilach’s “Karate Kick” goal – with RSL also winning a reg. season match in 2020.
PERENNIAL POSTSEASON APPEARANCES :: Again, Real Salt Lake is the first one of five potential Western Conference teams to have qualified for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in five of the last six seasons, overcoming both internal and external volatility in the last six years through three different ownership situations and three different head coaches, as well as soon-to-be four different MLS Cup Playoff formats during this period.
Two perennial postseason obstacles for RSL – Portland and Seattle, the lone two West sides to represent the conference in MLS Cup Finals from 2015-21, prior to LAFC last year – can still qualify for this postseason after seeing their recent four-year Playoff runs snapped in 2022. LAFC and Minnesota can also potentially join RSL, Seattle and Portland with the 5-out-of-6 qualification distinction; however, Minnesota has advanced just once and LAFC twice, compared to RSL’s three advancements in the previous four years.
In the Eastern Conference, three teams – Philadelphia, New York City FC and Red Bull New York – have qualified for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs five consecutive years from 2018-22. However, only Philadelphia have won in the playoffs and advanced three times in the previous five campaigns.
The perennial nature of RSL’s 13 postseason appearances in 16 years is remarkable when considering the League’s growth, volatility and various changes dating back to 2008. Since RSL’s first postseason appearance in 2008, the Utah side has advanced to 10 Conference Semifinal rounds and 5 Conference Finals – only SEA has reached more (12 Semis, 6 Finals). LA Galaxy also with 5 Conference Final appearances.
FOUR RSL PLAYERS TO DEPART SUNDAY FOR INTERNATIONAL DUTY :: RSL will miss four players – FW Jefferson Savarino (Venezuela), MF Braian Ojeda (Paraguay), FW Rubio Rubin (Guatemala) and D/M Kevon Lambert (Jamaica) – for its game at LA Galaxy on Sat., Oct. 14. The quartet will join their respective nations for the upcoming FIFA window, and will return to the Utah side in time to prepare for Decision Day at Colorado on Sat., Oct. 21.
RSL HOMEGROWN JUSTEN GLAD EXTENDED LAST WEEK :: RSL announced earlier this week that 26-year old Homegrown DF Justen Glad has signed a contract extension to keep the 10-year veteran in Claret-and-Cobalt through the 2027 season. The longest-tenured player on the current Real Salt Lake squad, Glad first signed with the Utah side on April 7, 2014, at the age of 17, as the Club’s sixth all-time Homegrown Player. Throughout his career, Glad has gone on to set countless Club records, including being the first Homegrown to don the Captain’s armband, as well as the first to reach both the 100-game centenary and 200 games played milestones. Last season, Glad became the first Homegrown to be named Real Salt Lake’s Most Valuable Player, as voted by his locker-room peers.
Currently, Glad is the third-most capped active Homegrown Player still with their original club, having appeared in a total of 213 MLS reg. season matches for Real Salt Lake, trailing only Jonathan Osorio (276, Toronto FC) and Russell Teibert (253, Vancouver Whitecaps FC). Additionally, Glad’s 213 MLS reg. season appearances ranks sixth all-time behind Club legends Nick Rimando (369), Kyle Beckerman (350), Chris Wingert (247), Tony Beltran (245) and Javier Morales (240).
STOPPING THE SLIDE :: RSL arrived at LAFC – just days following the SoCal side’s penalty-kick loss in the Campeones Cup to Mexican power Tigres – with only two wins in its previous eight games and three in its last 10 across all competitions. Only the Sept. 2 Rocky Mountain Cup win over Colorado – by a 2-0 scoreline at home – joining the Sept. 23 Vancouver win in stemming the tide. The home loss to Dallas on August 20 was RSL’s first this year when scoring the game’s initial goal, with the Claret-and-Cobalt now boasting 11 wins and one draw in 13 games that saw RSL take a 1-0 lead.