Match Previews

RSL Storylines: All Hands on Deck for Galaxy Blockbuster


Dearest gentle readers, welcome back to storylines!

The date is now Friday, June 21, 2024, and your beloved Claret-and-Cobalt continue to sit atop the Western Conference Standings, now three points clear and with an elevated goal differential over its nearest challenger, LAFC. The 2024 campaign has been nothing short of a magical one to this point for RSL, riding on the back of 10 wins, seven draws, and just two losses thus far, with 37 points from 19 games all representing the best-ever start to a season in franchise history.

Life isn’t just good. Statistically, in fact, it literally has never been better.

RSL wrapped up its two most recent road trips in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night in Kansas, where inspired performances from Diego Luna and Andres Gómez led the team to a hard-fought 4-3 victory against Sporting Kansas City in an enthralling contest at Children’s Mercy Park. The win extended RSL’s historic single-season unbeaten streak to a new Club record of 15 consecutive games, breaking the previous record (14, 2010). RSL’s last defeat was on March 9 vs. Rocky Mountain Cup rival Colorado, 103 days before the team’s next match vs. LA Galaxy. The result also extended the Club’s single-season unbeaten road streak to 10 successive matches, since last losing in the season opener at Inter Miami on Feb. 21, another new franchise record.

Having successfully come through what was a particularly grinding road stint, Pablo's men now set their focus firmly ahead for the next phase of their grueling title examination, starting with Saturday night’s top-of-the-table showdown against rivals, LA Galaxy, at America First Field, in what promises to be a blockbuster contest.

Kickoff for this game - RSL expecting another electric, standing-room-only crowd in Sandy - is slated for 7:30 pm MT. This will be the second meeting between RSL and the Galaxy this season, with the first meeting ending in a draw after RSL squandered a 2-0 halftime lead courtesy of a brace from Captain Chicho Arango, forced to settle for a 2-2 stalemate following Galaxy’s 90+6’ stoppage-time equalizer. The Galaxy fixture will represent a stern test for the boys, and RSL will need all hands on deck and your continued, unwavering support as the team continues to always push until the final whistle.

The stakes are higher now than ever before and growing with each passing game - no pun intended. Nevertheless, in the wake of a magical night against Sporting KC, and on the back of its best start to a season in franchise history, the collective RSL destiny remains in its own hands to mold as it wishes, and you best believe Pablo and staff are preparing the boys to be ready to go again. Here are a few storylines from RSL’s historic night in Kansas.


  • Although there have been improvements, defensive fragility still remains an issue for RSL ahead of this crucial tie. Pablo will be looking to find the right formula for this ahead of the visit from LA Galaxy.
  • Who starts at number 10? Pablo has a selection headache ahead of the weekend’s game, with Matt Crooks, Diego Luna, and Anderson Julio all vying for starting spots.
  • Pablo celebrates 50th win in charge with Kansas Victory.
  • Chicho The Magnificent! RSL’s captain made history for himself and the Club against Kansas, and has the chance to add to his record-breaking season with a goal or more against the Galaxy.

The Deep Dive

  • Although there have been improvements, defensive fragility still remains an issue for RSL ahead of this crucial tie. Pablo will be looking to find the right formula for this ahead of the visit from LA Galaxy.

RSL’s recent road stint brought about a mixed bag of feelings in relation to the team’s defensive performances. A solid, impenetrable defensive display in the team’s away game in Quebec was followed by a calamitous showing in the succeeding game against SKC. Having secured a sixth clean sheet of the season with a dogged, determined defensive performance in the goalless draw against CF Montreal, the team’s defensive foundation bent but didn’t break, conceding three goals for the third time in the last month at KC. The three goals conceded brings the total to 11 allowed in RSL’s last six games, with an average of nearly two goals conceded per game during that time frame.

To make matters worse, centerback Brayan Vera, one of the team’s regular defensive linchpins the last two seasons alongside longtime servant of the club, Justen Glad, picked up a yellow card during the win over Kansas that makes him ineligible to feature in the weekend’s clash due to caution accumulation. With Glad out injured, RSL was already going to be without one of its starting centerbacks, and Vera’s additional unavailability will ony make the task much more difficult for Pablo without both of his defensive generals this season.

The good news, however, is that rising from adversity has always been one of the trademarks of this team, especially under the Pablo Mastroeni era. One of the biggest things Pablo preaches is the importance of mentality, and that mentality has catalyzed RSL to record its best ever start in the franchise’s history, and the ultimate secret to the team’s ascension in recent years. The tougher the situation, the more “stuck in” Pablo’s team seems to be, and you best believe he and his coaching staff will be getting the boys battle ready for this weekend. Bode Hidalgo, Phillip Quinton, and Bryan Oviedo will be just some of the candidates in contention for a starting spot to replace Glad and Vera at the heart of defense, and Pablo will be counting on the full strength and mentality of his squad on Saturday when the Galaxy roll into town.

  • Who starts at number 10? Pablo has a selection headache ahead of the weekend’s game, with Matt Crooks, Diego Luna, and Anderson Julio all vying for starting spots.

Pablo will also have a selection dilemma as to who will start in the coveted attacking midfield position with Chicho for the game on the weekend. 20-year-old Luna shone in the right-sided number 10 role during the game against KC with two assists and, alongside Gómez, was the team’s best player on the night with yet another standout performance on the season. New signing Matt Crooks also came off the bench in the second half and scored the winning goal in the 4-3 win, representing the Englishman’s first ever goal in Claret-and-Cobalt colors to catapult himself back into contention.

28-year-old Anderson Julio also continues to stake a claim for a starting spot with another impressive goal in the first half to make it six goals in his last six games for the Ecuadorean striker. As opposed to starting in the space behind a striker, however, Julio provides a different strategy where he starts up top as the team’s most advanced forward, allowing Chicho to operate in a deeper role where the Colombian is just as effective. Chicho and Julio have combined to devastating effect at times this season, and it is worth mentioning that RSL has scored five goals in each of the last two home games the pair has started together - the first time in 20 seasons RSL has scored 10 or more in consecutive games - the duo combining for a total of eight goal contributions during that time.

Whatever happens, RSL’s depth will be on display to see who gets the nod to start alongside Chicho.

  • Pablo celebrates 50th win in charge with Kansas Victory.

On a night awash with numerous milestones, narratives and storylines in Kansas, Pablo Mastroeni also celebrated his 50th win in 120 games across all competitions at the helm of the Claret-and-Cobalt, with the 4-3 victory. Mastroeni’s 50 wins rank second all-time amongst Real Salt Lake managers, with Pablo achieving the feat three games quicker than RSL legend Jason Kreis.

Mastroeni, 47, arrived on the Wasatch Front in February 2021 as the top assistant manager on the RSL technical staff under direction of Freddy Juarez. Upon Juarez’s departure late that August, Mastroeni was immediately elevated to the role of interim manager, posting an 8W-8L-1T record during all 2021 regular season competitions and leading RSL into its 11th postseason in 14 years, RSL riding the “Damiracle” at Kansas City on Decision Day as the seventh and final Western Conference Playoff team.

Mastroeni is currently in his fourth season at RSL in total, but third full season as head coach as well as eighth overall in MLS, also having served as head coach for four seasons in Colorado between 2014 and 2017 prior to his arrival in Utah.

During his time at the helm he’s led RSL to three consecutive postseasons, the only Western Conference side with that distinction. Throughout the 47-year-old’s 120 games in charge of RSL across all competitions, Mastroeni currently boasts a 50W-40L-30T record, even on goal difference at 179-179 with opponents.

When scoring first under Pablo in MLS refs season contests, RSL has 31 wins and nine draws against just four losses, while his 50 overall wins currently rank him second on the list amongst the franchise’s all time managers with the most wins behind the legendary Jason Kreis (90W-71L-57T), albeit with fewer games in charge than Kreis, who returned to the Club in a front-office role this past winter.

Furthermore, only previous head coach Jeff Cassar (2014-2016) reached 100 career regular season points in the same number of league games (70) or fewer in RSL history as Mastroeni, after longtime assistant Cassar inherited the Jason Kreis powerhouse a decade ago.

Mastroeni now boasts an 81W-83L-61T record throughout his MLS career in total, encompassing his tenures at both Rocky Mountain clubs.

It’s safe to say the beloved RSL boss has developed into an icon of the Salt Lake City franchise, and wil be looking to continue his successful time at the helm starting with the visit of LA Galaxy on Saturday.

  • Chicho The Magnificent! RSL’s Captain made history for himself and the Club against Kansas, and has the chance to add to his record breaking season with a goal or more against the Galaxy.

RSL’s Captain Chicho also continued his record-breaking season against SKC, coming off the bench to write yet another piece of history into Claret-and-Cobalt folklore. In the 84th minute, the 29-year-old provided an assist for Matt Crooks’ first-ever RSL goal to become just the third-ever RSL player - out of 210 to have logged league minutes with the Utah side - to have a 10g/10a campaign, joining Jeff Cunningham (2006) and Albert Rusnák (2021), and all this with nearly half the season still to play for.

Also, Chicho’s game-winning assist was his team-high fifth of the year, out of 10 wins thus far in 2024.

Furthermore, with 16 goals already this season, Chicho now needs just one more goal to tie the franchise single season-record of 17 goals set by Alvaro Saborio over a decade ago in 2012, and two more to break and claim sole possession of the all-time single-season RSL Golden Boot record.

Chicho’s hat trick in his last home game earned him sole possession of the current MLS Golden Boot lead with 16 goals, three more than his closest competitor (C. Benteke, DC, 13). It also made him the second RSL player to score multiple career hat tricks (2 in 30 MLS games), joining Alvaro Saborio, who scored three in 127 regular season games (two of Sabo’s hat tricks came in 2012; should Chicho score another hat this season, he would become just the eighth all-time MLS player with three hat tricks in a single-season).

As if all that wasn’t already enough, Chicho’s goalscoring exploits against Austin also meant the 29-year-old Colombian became the third-fastest MLS player to reach 25 goals and assists in a season this year, with only 17 games played at the time.

Chicho has undoubtedly become the most important figure in Pablo’s attacking arsenal and RSL fans will be counting on their captain to continue his magical season and lead the team to new heights when the team take America First Field for the showdown against the Galaxy on Saturday.