Devon Sandoval vs TFC Preview

Storylines to Watch: RSL vs. Toronto FC

The Kyle Beckerman-Sebastian Giovinco matchup

Every now and then, the stars align in MLS and there is a meeting of two marquee players that stands to set the tone for the match.  That is the case with Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman and Toronto FC puppeteer Sebastian Giovinco.  Often the two most pivotal figures in a match will find themselves in much different positions on the pitch, but in the case of Beckerman and Giovinco, they are likely to be separated by precious few blades of grass at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Beckerman – the U.S. National Team starter in three World Cup matches just last year as a holding midfielder – will likely shadow Giovinco – the former Juventus and Parma playmaker and regular contributor for the Italian National Team over the last four years.  It will make for some explosive play on the field fitting of the stage of the nationally televised match on Fox Sports 1.

Opportunities aplenty

Both teams have several players away on international duty, with RSL and Toronto each losing five players.  IN addition, injuries and suspensions leave both teams a bit thin in their depth.  However, the two teams aren’t looking at it as decimated lineups as much as immense opportunities for players to play big roles.

For RSL, that likely means Devon Sandoval will return to the starting lineup in Alvaro Saborio’s place, Luke Mulholland mans the middle in place of Luis Gil and Jeff Attinella steps in for Nick Rimando in net.  All three have starting experience and had good preseasons to set the stage for

History repeating?

The last time these two teams met was on March 29, 2014.  One year to the day to this year’s meeting.  In that match, Alvaro Saborio scored twice and Luis Gil added another as RSL routed Toronto FC 3-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium.  The names and faces have changed in both locker rooms thanks in large part to the aforementioned international call-ups, so not much can be read into that.

However, RSL does hold a convincing 7-4-2 overall record against TFC and a 6-1-0 home record that includes six consecutive victories in Utah.  In five matches at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL has five victories and holds a 14-4 scoring advantage.

In addition, RSL is also on an 11-match unbeaten run (6-0-5) against Eastern Conference opponents that extends back to the 2013 season.

Home sweet home

Real Salt Lake surpassed 15,000 season tickets this week and Rio Tinto Stadium holds an incredible home-field advantage.  RSL is 70-13-31 at Rio Tinto Stadium all-time in the regular season.  With just one loss at home in the last 24 matches across all competitions, the advantage is clear.

On the other side of the field, Toronto FC is playing the third of seven road matches to start the 2015 season while the club’s home stadium at BMO Field is renovated.  With just one win in the last eight road matches across all competitions, TFC is looking to break those trends on Sunday.