Herriman • A road game against the surging Los Angeles Football Club would have been challenging enough on any weekend.
But Real Salt Lake has to play this particular road game against LAFC with a huge disadvantage. Five players will be out of the lineup on Saturday due to either international duty or red-card suspensions.
If there was ever a chance for RSL to prove just how deep this year’s roster is, Saturday’s match at Banc of California Stadium would be it.
“We have a big roster,” midfielder Damir Kreilach said Tuesday, “and everyone can replace everyone because of that.”
Corey Baird, Sam Johnson and Albert Runsák will all miss Saturday’s game because they will be competing in friendlies for the United States, Liberia and Slovakia national teams, respectively. Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva each picked up red cards in last weekend’s loss to D.C. United and have to serve a one-game suspension.
Four of those five have started every game so far this season. Johnson is the only one who hasn’t, but he’s subbed on and played at least 20 minutes in each of the first three games. But there are those on the team who don’t seem concerned about what placing four new players into the starting 11 could do to the team’s chemistry.
“It does make difference, but then in the same breath, we’ve all trained together throughout preseason,” center back Nedum Onouha said. “So for as much as those people haven’t played in the first three games, we’ve basically been with each other every day for the past two months. It’s not as tricky as people think.”
Right back Brooks Lennon piggybacked on Onuoha’s comments, saying there will likely be “a lot of debuts” on Saturday. He added that whether it’s during training or during a game, there should be no difference in how the players on the field — whoever they are — interact.
Lennon called the situation “a great opportunity” for the players who will be expected to step in and make significant contributions in what will likely be their first MLS action of the season.
“Everyone that’s playing this weekend is excited to play and I think we have the quality to pick up a result,” Lennon said.
RSL will have to find its form against an LAFC team that has yet to lose a game and is motivated to avenge its loss to Real in last season’s playoff knockout round. One of LA’s midfielders, Latif Blessing, told local media on Thursday that it was “payback time” and that his team will beat RSL five goals to one.
Petke called LAFC one of the top two teams in the league. He said there won’t be much RSL can take from its playoff win into Saturday’s game except for the attitude it exhibited that night.
RSL will not be the only team with key players missing. LAFC’s Christian Ramirez, Peter-Lee Vassell, Mohamed El-Munir were all called up to their respective national teams and will not play.
It also won’t be the first time RSL has had five players missing going into a game. It happened late last season going into a home match against the New England Revolution where three players were game-time decisions due to a short travel turnaround and two others did not play because of yellow card accumulation. RSL won that game.
Veteran Kyle Beckerman said he’s sure LAFC want’s to “crush” RSL, and he knows the challenge that lies ahead. For Real to come out with at least a draw, Beckerman feels it will have to take an “all-out effort” from every individual and the team as a whole.
“It’s gonna be a grind,” Beckerman said. “It’s gonna be extremely tough. But we feel like there’s definitely an opportunity and a possibility to get a result in L.A.”
REAL SALT LAKE AT LAFC
At Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles
Kickoff » Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT
TV » KMYU
Radio » 700 AM
Records » RSL 1-1-1, LAFC 2-0-1
Last meeting » RSL 3, LAFC 2 (Nov. 1, 2018)
About LAFC » Carlos Vela leads the team in goals with three … Five different players have scored a goal this season. … Lee Nguyen is listed as questionable with a right hamstring strain. … The team’s plus-four goal differential is third in the league. … They sit second in the Western Conference with seven points.
About RSL » Nick Rimando has five saves on 11 shots faced so far this season. … Five players have at least one yellow card. … Four of the five players out for this game play attacking roles. … Joao Plata and Justen Glad are still out due to injury. … Lost both regular-season games to LAFC in 2018. ... Tony Beltran is listed as questionable to due a knee issue.