Storylines to Watch: RSL v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Real Salt Lake will look to stay unbeaten in the 2014 season on Saturday, when it will host Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a 7:30 p.m. MT tilt at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of Saturday’s match:

Rimando looks to make history

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando can make history on Saturday, as he’s just one shutout away from tying retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record with 112 career regular season clean-sheets. The Wall of the Wasatch has three shutouts in just five games this season, tied with Houston’s Tally Hall and Sporting KC’s Eric Kronberg for most in the league.

RSL aims to extend club-record unbeaten streak

RSL has gotten off to a fantastic start in 2014, posting an unbeaten 3-0-4 record through its first seven games. The lone remaining unbeaten team in MLS, this is RSL’s longest-ever unbeaten run to start a season. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s current regular season unbeaten streak of 11 games dating back to last September’s win at Vancouver is the second-longest in club history, behind the 18-game regular season unbeaten run compiled from July 2010-April 2011. Should RSL pick up a result on Saturday, it would become just the ninth team in MLS history to start a season unbeaten in its first eight games.

Could Cassar move up the record books?

Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar’s seven-game unbeaten streak to start his managerial career is one of the best in MLS history, tied for third in league history with ex-Chicago Manager and current Montreal Head Coach Frank Klopas. Cassar can move into a tie for second with a result on Saturday, as an eight-game unbeaten streak to start a head coaching career would bring him even with the late Tom Fitzgerald, who started 8-0-0 after taking over the Columbus Crew midway into the 1996 season. Should RSL get a result on Saturday, Cassar would have the longest unbeaten run to start a coaching career in MLS’s non-shootout era; Lothar Osiander started his MLS coaching career 12-0-0 with LA in 1996.  

Will Plata return to the starting lineup?

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata made his return from injury last week, coming off the bench in the second half after missing three games due to a left hamstring strain. The dangerous Ecuadorian has been dynamite this season, registering two goals and two assists in just 230 minutes. We could see him return to the starting XI on Saturday, something that would no doubt give RSL a boost against the dangerous ‘Caps.

Last home game for international trio?

Saturday’s match could be the last home game for quite some time for three of RSL’s biggest players, as Rimando, Captain Kyle Beckerman and forward Alvaro Saborio could all be with their respective national teams ahead of the World Cup prior to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s next home match on May 17 against Colorado. FIFA mandates that clubs release players for pre-World Cup camps on May 14. Should all three players make their country’s World Cup roster, the next possible home game they would be available for wouldn’t be until July 4 against New England, over two months from now.