“We’re here for RSL”
Saturday will be the first home match of the year for Real Salt Lake and the team will have the first opportunity to march onto the field to the cheers of its home crowd.
Last year, RSL went 11-1-5 at home to bring their all-time record at Rio Tinto Stadium to 63-12-25 since it opened in 2008. RSL has never won fewer than nine home matches when playing a full season at Rio Tinto, including an undefeated season at 11-0-4 in 2010. Saturday is a good opportunity to get started on the right foot at home. And to make matters better, RSL is 3-0-3 all-time in home openers at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Since the Philadelphia Union entered MLS in 2010, it has not been able to solve Real Salt Lake. RSL holds a 2-0-5 record against the Union, but the two teams have played to draws in each of the last three match-ups. The last two both ended 2-2 with the previous match ending in a scoreless draw. The last victory in the series came in September of 2011, a 2-1 win for RSL with goals coming from Kyle Beckerman and Chris Schuler.
The teams are much different, but for the holdovers from previous years, the psychological advantage can be very real.
West vs. East
Real Salt Lake has enjoyed a stretch of dominance over the Eastern Conference that dates back almost 20 months. RSL is 8-0-4 against the East in the last 12 matches, including a 6-0-4 record last season and a 6-0-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL’s last home defeat against the East came in dubious fashion when Ike Opara scored a stoppage time goal in a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on July 20, 2013.
World Cup goats
For the second consecutive game, Real Salt Lake will go up against a goalkeeper who is likely best known in the U.S. for allowing a big goal for the U.S. National Team in the World Cup. Last week, it was Ghanaian Adam Kwarasey with the Portland Timbers, who allowed a first-minute goal from Clint Dempsey in the first match of the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Americans went on to win that match to help advance to the Round of 16.
This week, it will be Rais M’bolhi. He was the goalkeeper for Algeria in 2010 when Landon Donovan scored the last-minute goal that sent ripples through American sports culture. This is M’bolhi’s second season with the Union after joining at midseason last year. In five matches, he has allowed four goals and posted a shutout last week against the Colorado Rapids at PPL Park.