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Real Salt Lake Expecting Fierce Battle Against San Jose Midweek

Jackson Yueill #14 of San Jose Earthquakes tries to get the ball from Albert Rusnak #11 of Real Salt Lake at Earthquakes Stadium on October 28, 2020 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake is preparing for a short turnaround as it gets ready to take on San Jose on the road this upcoming Wednesday evening.

The fixture proves pivotal as the two clubs are separated by only three points with Real Salt Lake marginally holding on to the final playoff seed in the Western Conference. A loss and San Jose would climb the standings, but a win could gift Real Salt Lake some much-needed insurance as it looks to separate from the chasing pack.

Undermanned Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake enters the fixture undermanned with interim manager Pablo Mastroeni suggesting that a number of players may be unavailable for the fixture. Left-back Noah Powder did not travel with the squad to Los Angeles and will likely be unavailable for the game against San Jose, while, right-back Aaron Herrera is also questionable as he deals with an unknown setback.

Herrera was most recently suspended for the 3-2 loss against LAFC due to yellow card accumulation.

Mastroeni also mentioned that a number of other players will go through training on Tuesday afternoon to determine their health and fitness ahead of the contest. However, Mastroeni did not specify who those players were.

Nonetheless, with Herrera and Powder assumably unavailable, it is becoming more likely that Real Salt Lake plays in the 3-5-2 formation, the same formation they played in for the first time this season against LAFC.

Shape Under Mastroeni

Mastroeni is still toying with the shape of the team, although, the decision to play in a 3-5-2 against San Jose remains likely.

Most teams that operate in a 3-5-2 defer to a 5-3-2 when defending. Although, Mastroeni stated that he is not fond of defending with 5 across the back.

“What happens when this 3-5-2 turns into a 5-3-2 is you get pinned and for me, if you’re going to defend with five I would rather defend with four,” Mastroeni stated.

He also added how he intends on dropping one of the strikers into the midfield to create four across the midfield. Damir Kreilach acted as that false-nine against LAFC, helping aid the midfield battle.

Under Mastroeni’s guidance, Real Salt Lake has been adamant at winning the field position battle. Much like LAFC, Real Salt Lake has no issue with kicking the ball deep into the opposition’s territory and trying to press high up the pitch, forcing the opposition to play on their heels and struggle to move the football up the pitch.

San Jose In Form

San Jose is a team in form, over the past 12 fixtures they have only lost 1 game. That loss coming against Colorado on September 4th when Rapids striker Domonique Badji waited until the 89th minute to find the game-winner.

Through the 12 fixtures, 8 have resulted in draws and 3 ended in Earthquake victories.

Jeremy Ebobisse is the only player for San Jose who is listed on the injury report, Earthquakes manager Matías Almeyda has a healthy roster to choose from.

San Jose enters the fixture against Real Salt Lake coming off a 1-1 road draw against FC Dallas. San Jose scored from the penalty spot in the 6th minute but conceded an equalizer in the 50th minute when Ricardo Pepi found the back of the net.

Almeyda’s Goal Scoring Woes

Traditionally, San Jose under Almeyda has been a very prolific attacking team, however, this season the earthquakes have struggled to find the back of the net having netted only 25 goals through 23 games. They currently hold a -6 goal differential and need desperate help finding more attacking avenues.

Major League Soccer all-time leading goalscorer Chris Wondolowski has made the move to the bench this year but frequently comes off the bench late in games with the hope of finding goals late in the game.

Wondolowski has been a thorn in Real Salt Lake’s side over the years, having most recently scored a brace in the final 10 minutes against Real Salt Lake to pinch all three points at Rio Tinto Stadium for San Jose on May 7th.

Match Info

Real Salt Lake and San Jose will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. from PayPal Park on Wednesday, September 15th.

The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.