Tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium RSL wraps up it’s 10th regular season in Major League Soccer against the team that came into the league at the exact same time, Chivas USA. As RSL prepares for it’s 7th straight playoff appearance, Chivas is heading in a much different direction. The Goats are being shuttered by Major League Soccer and likely reorganized under new management and a new brand sometime in the next two years. Those of us that have been around MLS and specifically Real Salt Lake for the last decade, do find some irony in this, because the perception 10 years ago was the Chivas was a model franchise and that Real Salt Lake would be lucky to survive in tiny Salt Lake City. Well as we’ve come to see, just the opposite has played out. Chivas has been an unmitigated disaster on and off the field for the last 7-8 years, while RSL under the guidance of Garth Lagerwey, Jason Kreis, Jeff Cassar, Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen are one of the model franchises for success and consistency in the League.
That brings us to tonight’s regular season finale at the RioT. Real Salt Lake is already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs for a 7th consecutive season. What they don’t know or control is where and who they will play. Thanks to some inconsistent results over the last month, RSL finds itself at the mercy of FC Dallas to determine what it’s seeding will be. If RSL wins tonight against Chivas they will be 2 pts ahead of FC Dallas, who hosts Portland on Saturday in Frisco, Tx. That would mean FC Dallas would have to win on Saturday to secure the #3 position in the West. A win tonight for RSL is far from guaranteed, they’ve lost to the Goats twice this season by 1-0 scorelines in LA, despite the fact that Chivas has scored the fewest goals (28) in MLS this year and conceded the most goals (59) this seasson, RSL hasn’t been able to solve the riddle, yet….The good news though for RSL is that the band is nearly all together for Wednesday night’s match, only regular Chris Schuler who is recovering from facial fracture is unavailable for the match. In addition, while the result wasn’t the 3pts Jeff Cassar was hoping for on Friday in Portland, the team’s form and energy was excellent in a hostile environment. This is a veteran group that certainly realizes the importance of this match and they’re playing a club with absolutely nothing to play for tonight.
Here are my 3 Keys to 3 points for RSL against Chivas USA
1. Get an early Goal-Yes I know this sounds very basic, but the simple fact of the matter is an early goal will likely take the life out of the Goats. Something in the back of the net in the first 15 minutes keeps the crowd energized and kills the spirit of an already dispirited opponent. It would be nice to see something from Saborio or Plata, neither of whom have score in more than a month.
2. Find and Neutralize Cubo-Chivas is a really bad team, but they do have one “class” player. Erik “Cubo” Torres. He’s got 15 goals on the season, which is a single season Chivas record. Plus a game winner against RSL in June. In addtion, Torres just got his first CAPS and goal with the Mexican national team. Torres has good speed and also puts himself in great scoring positions with excellent runs inside the 18 yard box. Borchers and Salcedo must find and mark him well tonight.
3. Be Better in the Box-When RSL is at it’s best it dominates possesion but it also has great touch and feel in the final third of the field. One thing that has lacked over the couple of months has been that final ball or touch in scoring opportunities. Saborio, Plata, Jaime, Findley, Garcia, ect have struggled at different times this season. To be successful tonight and moving forward Real Salt Lake needs to regain that finishing form.
Bold Prediction for the Match-RSL 2 and Chivas 0.