New England Soccer Today

Scouting the Opposition: A Look at Real Salt Lake with Denzel Eslinger

Prior to each match, New England Soccer Today will invite a reporter from the other side to provide insight regarding the Revolution’s next opponent.

This week, RSL Soapbox creator Denzel Eslinger shared his thoughts on the state of Real Salt Lake and what the New England Revolution can expect when they face them at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.

What is Salt Lake’s current form? How have they been on the road?

Real Salt Lake travel to take on the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday at 7:30PM.

Denzel: Well in MLS action they only have played one road match a 1-0 win on the opening weekend over San Jose, but most people are still talking about the 4-1 thrashing of the Galaxy a couple weeks ago, where many feel RSL stated their case as one of the premier teams in MLS this year (I believe they are but you don’t prove that in week 2, more like week 20).  Outside of MLS action the team has been busy, with their Champions League matches in the 4 they have played this year they are 2-1-1 but done well enough to advance to the finals.  One has to say they are playing in what many people would consider mid season form, all I know is that they look very sharp both at home and on the road.

What is their likely starting 11 on Saturday? Any possibility of some players getting a rest after the trip to Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Champions League?

Denzel: I think you will see a few players getting a rest on Saturday simply because of it being back to back matches on turf, and doing that twice in a week isn’t fun.  So I expect guys who are either a bit older or have had knee or other injury issues to maybe get a pass.  Some possible candidates are: Nick Rimando (bone spur in his ankle), Jamison Olave (cronic knee issues), and maybe a couple others just for rest, Andy Williams, and probably our rotation on our back line (Russell and Wingert went on Tuesday, so maybe Beltran and Russell on Saturday).  One thing I have to make clear: it will be a fight in the locker room trying to get any of our guys to sit a match, these guys love to play and hate missing a minute of action.

My Starting XI: Kyle Reynish, Robbie Russell, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Collen Warner (or Arturo Alvarez), Fabian Espindola, Paulo Jr.  It really is hard to know before the final injury report comes out Friday afternoon, but given the fact we have a Wednesday match at home with Colorado, I expect a few guys to get rested in both of these matches.

Are there any key injuries affecting Real Salt Lake?

Denzel: Not really, a couple guys have some chronic injuries, but perhaps the biggest is Nick Rimando’s bone spur in his ankle but he has been in great form despite it.  We will know more when the Friday injury report comes out.

Have Salt Lake shown any weaknesses this season that the Revs may be able to exploit?

Denzel: I know this is going to sound cocky as hell, but no.  Ask LA about any weaknesses, they got a goal on a rare mental lapse by our defense with a 3-0 lead.  I honestly believe that this RSL squad is a very complete team in every position, and that we have several guys on our bench each week who would likely be starters for a good number of teams in the league.  Our guys have bought into the mentality of everyone plays defense, and everyone is involved in the offense and it has worked really well.  Now every team will make mistakes and RSL is no different, the key for opponents is being able to recognize them and then capitalize before they are corrected.  I think every outside back likes to push forward in support of the offense, sometimes they don’t get back as quick as they should.  RSL makes a lot of short passes, so applying high pressure is one way to force them to shift their game plan a bit, but so far there just haven’t been a lot of weaknesses on the pitch.  Told you it would sound cocky.

What seem to be Salt Lake’s biggest strengths this season?

Denzel: I think the ability to play two very creative playmakers has really forced teams to react to what RSL is doing on the pitch, as opposed to playing how they want to, the combo of Javier Morales and Andy Williams may be as lethal as any two playmakers in the league.  Then you have to deal with Will Johnson and Kyle Beckerman who are simply tough as nails, go every minute of every match, challenge for every ball kinda players, oh and both of them can hit huge shots from distance as well.  I would have to say the play of our midfield has been the biggest strength this year, our style is that we control possession and we dictate the pace of the match as much as possible, which is easier at home but over the last two years our midfield (and team as a whole) has become much more confident on the road.  Yeah so far this year I am giving a nod to the best midfield in MLS.

What Salt Lake players should fans keep an eye on Saturday?

Denzel: If you didn’t watch the RSL vs LA Galaxy match a couple weeks ago, then I would say it is Paulo Jr., who in his first MLS start had an assist, drew a PK, and scored a goal, all against the team most people had picked as one of the top teams in MLS this year.  Yeah I would have to say Paulo Jr. is a player that every fan of MLS should keep their eyes on, he is scary fast, has great feet and is very agile on the ball, oh and he loves to score and is very accurate with the ball.  I would also toss in Fabian Espindola, the guy is playing like a man possessed this year, he has always been a dangerous player and this year he looks focused.  Perhaps the biggest improvement has been his ability to keep his emotions in check, something that has hurt him in the past.

Denzel Eslinger’s coverage of Real Salt Lake can be seen at Denzel on twitter @rslsoapbox

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