Real Salt Lake Poised For Redemption As LAFC & Banc of California Stadium Awaits
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake is attempting to secure its first points against LAFC this season when they travel to Banc of California Stadium for a third and final date with The Black and Gold this Sunday, September 12.
Real Salt Lake enters the contest with a different manager than its two previous fixtures against LAFC. Freddy Juarez is now with the Seattle Sounders and Pablo Mastroeni has a chance to do something Juarez was unable to accomplish in 2021, pick up a result against LAFC.
In the two previous fixtures, LAFC has beaten Real Salt Lake on both occasions, a 1-0 defeat at Rio Tinto Stadium and a 2-1 loss on the road. Both games have provided a lot of entertainment. In the 1-0 loss, Real Salt Lake was the better team, but failed to capitalize on its opportunities and instead conceded late in the game to lose.
Furthermore, the last encounter at Banc of California Stadium was arguably Real Salt Lake’s worst performance of the season. They lost 2-1 but it could have been much, much worse if it were not for Ochoa in goal. The pressure and high press of LAFC were far too much for Real Salt Lake to handle.
“The interesting thing about LAFC is that they have a lot of really technical players and they play a lot of really decisive passes but one thing they are not ashamed to do is kick the ball forward and their three midfielders along with their outside backs really do a great job of using that as a pressing opportunity,” Pablo Mastroeni stated in a press conference on Friday.
Nonetheless, both teams enter the game in form. Real Salt Lake most recently defeated a depleted FC Dallas team at home, while LAFC throttled a 10-men Sporting Kansas City squad 4-0.
Despite recent results, both clubs sit just three points separated from one and another with Real Salt Lake leading the charge on 30 points in 7th place in the West, LAFC are on 27 points in 9th position.
Wood, Brody & Ochoa Health Update
Furthermore, interim manager Pablo Mastroeni gave an update on a handful of players.
The expected return of David Ochoa will boost the visiting team, Ochoa has been absent and dealing with multiple leg injuries since July but made an appearance on the bench a week ago against Dallas and warmed up prior to the game.
Mastroeni said in a press conference that Ochoa will undergo some “kicking training” on Saturday to further solidify his health ahead of the game but he and the club are optimistic for his return.
Andrew Brody and Bobby Wood are both a few weeks away from returning. Brody is returning from a broken big toe and is now running but needs to regain the appropriate fitness while Wood has had a bout with a food illness over the last couple of days as he looks to return from a muscle injury and will not be available for a while.
Yellow Card Suspension For Herrera
Sadly, Real Salt Lake will be without Aaron Herrera who accumulated his fifth yellow card of the season against FC Dallas and will subsequently serve his one-match suspension. Noah Powder will feature as one of the full-backs with Donny Toia or Ashtone Morgan as the other expected to start.
19-year-old Real Monarch fullback Bode Davis has also been called into first-team duties and will compete for playing time alongside Toia and Morgan.
LAFC’s Departures & Arrivals
LAFC is coming to terms with the departure of Diego Rossi who left the team to pursue a loan opportunity with Fenerbahçe S.K in the Turkish Süper Lig. His absence certainly did not impact the play of LAFC during its last encounter with Sporting Kansas City.
The Black and Gold also lost Mark Anthony-Kaye to the Colorado Rapids and Corey Baird to Houston. But Bob Bradley and his front office were able to nab Cristian Arango from Millonarios in Colombia, Sebastian Ibeagha from New York City FC, and Julian Gaines who was signed through the MLS Waiver Order on August 19.
With the 2021 MLS season approaching its regular-season conclusion, the remaining games on the schedule are all very important. The fixture against LAFC marks the 12th final game of the Real Salt Lake regular season, and any success on the road could prove pivotal in Real Salt Lake’s hopes of securing a playoff birth.
Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. and will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.
Currently, Real Salt Lake sits in the 7th position in the Western Conference on 30 points through 22 games. LAFC sits 3 points and 2 spots below Real Salt Lake in 9th position on 27 points through 22 games.
LAFC has beaten Real Salt Lake in two previous encounters this year. This weekend’s fixture marks the final regular-season contest between the two clubs.