Who: Real Salt Lake vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 3rd @ 10:00pm ET on ESPN+
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium
Line: RSL +138 | Draw +240 | NYCFC +185
NYCFC have made the long trek to Sandy, Utah ahead of Saturday night’s match against Real Salt Lake. RSL is in the midst of some turbulence with coach Mike Petke set to serve the second game of his three-game MLS suspension.
The ex N.Y. Red Bulls boss has also been fined $25,000 and banned for three future League’s Cup matches. The suspension is for the use of unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials.
Petke must also attend anger management, sensitivity and diversity training.
Commissioner Don Garber was not pleased, and although the exact language used has not been released, Petke is rumored to have directed a homophobic slur at the referee. “There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in our society, and Major League Soccer does not tolerate the repugnant language used by Mr. Petke.”
“All MLS players, staff and fans must know that these comments are unacceptable, and I am extremely disappointed that a leader of one of our clubs used such insensitive language. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”– Don Garber on RSL coach Mike Petke
RSL vs NYCFC Preview
Now to the game. RSL cannot afford to be distracted by all of this. The club is in a playoff battle, tied on points with seventh-place Portland, and just two back of FC Dallas for sixth place.
RSL is coming off of a decent 3 wins -1 loss -3 draws stretch and might have come away from Dallas with a big win were it not for some acrobatic goalkeeping by Jesse Gonzalez.
Sam Johnson leads the attack for Salt Lake, who will be coached once again by assistant Freddy Juarez who led RSL out versus FC Dallas last Saturday.
Johnson leads RSL with eight goals but it is a fairly balanced attack. Albert Rusnak has contributed seven goals and three assists. Jefferson Savarino has added five goals with Danny Kralich chipping in with four goals and three assists.
American soccer icons, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando, are still at it for RSL. However, Rimado announced that he will hang up his gloves at the end of the 2019 season.
RSL also features a contingent of somewhat younger Americans from center-back Justen Glad and fullback Aaron Herrera. They also feature the versatile Brooks Lennon, midfielder Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, and forward Corey Baird.
Lennon, Glad, Herrera, and Saucedo captured the CONCACAF title for the United States and advanced to the final eight in South Korea in the 2017 FIFA U20 World Championships.
New York will be aware that Salt Lake enjoys its home cooking, compiling a 7-2-1 record at Rio Tinto Stadium.
New York won’t be too worried, though. With a 4-2-4 road record, they’re second in the league to Bob Bradley’s LAFC. MLS is a notoriously difficult league on road teams, so much so that LAFC and NYCFC are the only teams in the league above .500 away from home. DC United is dead level at 4-4-4.
While RSL is slightly favored in this match, should they be?
With Alexander Ring playing out of his skin on both sides of the ball, MLS assist leader Maxi Moralez dishing, Heber making goal-scoring look routine and the remainder of Dome Torrent’s side proving more than ample backup, it would surprising not to see the visitors from the east emerge with at least one point, if not the full complement.
The Red Bulls latest impressive showing came Saturday night via a 4-0 shellacking of Real Salt Lake.
No BWP, no problem
The 2018 MLS Supporters Shield winners have done all of this without the services of all-time club goal-scoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips, who remains sidelined with what has been described for weeks as a day to day injury.
Tightening up leaky defense
In his absence, New York has had to find goals from a variety of sources to fill the gap, a problem that vexed the Red Bulls early, but has been solved recently with a goal scorer by committee approach.
Similarly, Red Bulls defense has not been the airtight certainty that it was in 2018. However, Chris Armas’ side has tightened up recently in that area, a testament to the Red Bulls impressive depth.
Welcome back, Petke
On Saturday night the Red Bulls welcomed back former coach Mike Petke, now helming Real Salt Lake. As fondly as Petke is remembered by the Red Bulls faithful, they delighted in Saturday’s second-half goal-scoring explosion.
In a battle of two of the best ever MLS keepers between Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando and the Red Bulls Luis Robles, it took an own goal in the 58th minute to break the deadlock. Rimando, in particular, had been excellent to that point, but the 39-year-old could do nothing when Red Bulls fullback Michael Murrillo’s driven cross ricocheted off of RSL center back Marco Silva for the Red Bulls opening tally.
Silva’s misfortune released the pressure valve on the New York attack and goals soon followed from Daniel Royer, just one minute later, Murillo, in the 64th minute, and then a late capper from rookie Omir Fernandez in the 83rd minute.
The Red Bulls recent improvement was played out in each of the goals with Royer beautifully set up by Kaku. The Paraguayan’s early season unhappiness after missing out on a post-season transfer to Mexico led to petulance and a suspension. However, all of this now seems far behind the playmaker.
Royer’s goal was well struck and a reminder that with Wright-Phillips sidelined, the Austrian needs to find his scoring boots. Red Bulls coach Chris Armas would surely love to see Saturday’s goal spark a run for Royer.
Murillo’s early season struggles saw the Panamanian World Cup veteran benched for Connor Lade. Since then, Murillo’s response has been heartening for the Red Bulls, with the talented fullback bouncing back with a series of strong matches. His recent assist spree has put Murillo atop the team’s leader board in that import statistic.
The final goal of the match came from one of the Red Bulls important depth players, Bronx native Omir Fernandez, via a perfect crossing pass from another of the Red Bulls Killer B’s Andreas Ivan, with that man Murillo picking up the secondary assist.
With the injury to BWP continuing to linger, Armas will need players like Fernandez and Ivan to contribute to the score sheet and with Fernandez scoring off of the bench in consecutive matches, the coach has reason to be encouraged.
The win marked a second clean sheet on the trot for NYRB and Robles, the 67th of the veteran’s career.
Keeping pace atop the table
The victory also allows New York to keep pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit in fourth place with 24 points, just three behind first-place DC, with the Bulls having played two fewer games than United.
RSL, meanwhile hang onto the final playoff berth in the congested Western Conference and will be looking to right the ship when they return to MLS action on June 22, in Chicago. RSL host LAFC in US Open Cup play on June 11.