HERRIMAN, Utah (Tuesday, September 19, 2023) – Real Salt Lake (11-10-7, 40 pts., 6th West) resumes its 2023 season, RSL’s 19th in Major League Soccer, with back-to-back home contests this Wednesday and Saturday against Western Conference foes FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Kickoff for each game is at 7:30p MT (Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass / KSL Radio).
With 40 points accumulated through 28 games of the 2023 MLS campaign, Real Salt Lake is part of a 10-team glut from 2nd to 11th place in the Western Conference separated by just eight points in the race for the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs (top nine teams), RSL seeking its first home postseason match since 2019.
RSL Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s side enters the final six games of the season tied on 40 points with both Houston and San Jose, three points shy of second-place LAFC (43 points) and able to surpass Seattle (42 pts) and Vancouver (41 pts) with one result. The Utah side is three points ahead of Minnesota (37 pts), four points up on Portland (36 pts) and five points ahead of Kansas City and Dallas (35 points).
DALLAS HISTORY: RSL has earned points in 17 of 25 all-time Dallas visits to Utah, winning 12 and drawing 5 games against 8 all-time losses to the visitors from North Texas. One of those Dallas wins came last year on Pioneer Day Weekend, the 1-0 Dallas win snapping a run of 10 consecutive home games without a loss. The teams met previously this year at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, with FC Dallas winning a 2-1 decision back on April 15.
LAST TIME OUT: RSL fell Saturday at San Jose, 1-2, unable to overcome a rough start that saw the home Earthquakes take an early 2-0 lead after 15 minutes. RSL was able to halve the deficit just before halftime when FW Chicho Arango scored his fourth MLS goal in the last two months with RSL. Arango’s goal was his sixth overall for the Claret-and-Cobalt, and the 97th of his illustrious professional career.
Despite Arango’s efforts, RSL has dropped five of its last six and six of its last eight across all competitions, with only the Sept. 2 Rocky Mountain Cup win over Colorado – by a 2-0 scoreline at home – stemming the tide. Those goals from Arango and fellow Colombian Brayan Vera on either side of halftime supported a Zac MacMath clean sheet to capture the Club’s 12th Rocky Mountain Cup in the last 15 seasons, the fan-created rivalry staying on the Wasatch Front for a fourth consecutive year, including the disputed 2020 season.
Wednesday’s kickoff against Dallas starts at 7:30p MT on Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass w/ Max Bretos and Brian Dunseth (ENG) and Rodolfo Landeros and Martin Zuniga (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).
Real Salt Lake v FC Dallas – MLS Matchday 33
America First Field – Sandy, Utah
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 – 7:30p MT
ROTATIONAL DEPTH: 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. This week, RSL hosts both Dallas and Vancouver, 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 Playoff home matches.
DECISION DAY DRAMA: 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.
NORMALLY RESILIENT IN BOUNCEBACK GAMES
The recent four-game slide for RSL belied a normally resilient and steely approach to adversity under HC Pablo Mastroeni over the last two years. RSL’s first victory in the recent 11-game overall unbeaten run was an unexpected 2-1 win at Austin on June 3, RSL “bouncing back” following a disappointing 2-3 home loss to LA Galaxy a few days earlier, a game in which RSL conceded first – a late first-half penalty call – reclaimed a 2-1 lead early in the second 45 before allowing two goals three minutes apart midway through the second half. That return to the site of last year’s playoff demise represented yet another opportunity for RSL to improve upon its record in “bounceback” games under Mastroeni, as the Claret-and-Cobalt have now earned a result in 23 of 31 matches following a loss in the “Pablo era” – a run which includes the bounceback win over León following the Monterrey home loss during the late July Leagues Cup slate.
Since August 2021, RSL has posted a 16W-8L-7T mark in these matches, suffering back-to-back losses just eight times in the former USMNT star’s now 91 games at the RSL helm. Can RSL recapture that resilience at home Wednesday against Dallas following Saturday’s San Jose road loss?
SHORT REST ROTATION ALSO NORMALLY SUCCESSFUL
While the August 23 Open Cup Semifinal loss at Houston arrived on a 15-day rest, it did kick off a run of four games in 10 days. RSL returning home to host the Dynamo August 26 for another loss, with a midweek road trip on August 30 at Portland also a losing effort, The Labor Day Weekend win over Colorado broke the rut, finally.
On short rest in June and July, RSL had 4 wins, 3 draws and the Monterrey loss prior to the August 8 setback at LAFC, with Mastroeni’s rotations now obviously affected by the Ruiz injury. Throughout the 120 days leading up to that LAFC elimination loss, RSL had played 18 of the 27 games on three or four days rest while navigating MLS, Open Cup and Leagues Cup action; during this period, RSL had seen 28 different players appear, RSL earning 8 wins and 6 draws against what was just 3 losses in these short rest / heavy rotation contests. However, RSL had lost two of three matches played on short rest from August 26 – Sept. 2. This week, home contests against Dallas and Vancouver will test the rotation and grit from the full roster on short rest, following the road loss at San Jose.
ROAD WARRIORS SUDDENLY STUMBLING
RSL arrived at the August 30 match in Portland with an overall eight-game road unbeaten run in MLS action, eventually succumbing by a 2-1 score. With the July 12 draw at Kansas City, RSL moved to the top of the League’s road table with 21 points earned in 12 away matches to this point. RSL’s ascent to move into the top 3 in the West was buoyed by the Club’s once-fantastic road form, which had seen RSL amass 18 MLS road points in eight away overall: with wins at Toronto (July 1, 1-0), St. Louis (June 21, 3-1), D.C. United (June 17, 2-1), Austin (June 3, 2-1) and Colorado (May 20, 3-2), along with draws at KC (July 12, 2-2) and at Minnesota (May 27, 1-1) and an Open Cup win at Colorado (May 24, 1-0), RSL advanced to the Open Cup Semifinal and turned its 2023 season around.
The four-game road win streak from June 3 to July 1 – as part of the 11-game unbeaten run overall – marked RSL’s best-ever road run in 19 years, while the current MLS run is just the fifth occasion in 19 years that RSL has won even a trio of consecutive MLS away matches (2017, 2013, 2011 and 2006). The back-to-back road wins at DCU and STL also marked the Club’s first consecutive MLS wins of any kind since a three-game run in May, 2022 – a full 13 months ago. Despite the various Cup setbacks away from Utah during the month of August, RSL will have critical road matches in MLS action upcoming at LAFC on Oct. 1, at LA Galaxy Oct. 14 (a match rescheduled from last Sunday due to Hurricane Hilary), with a road finish at Colorado Oct. 21. Can RSL recapture its Summer road form after stumbling at Portland and San Jose?
RSL Take on FC Dallas 9.20
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