Two teams, two painful pasts, one chance to wash them away with a trip to the MLS Cup final.
RSL and the Red Bulls meet tonight in the Western Conference final and one of them will have a chance to celebrate a victory their fans have suffered more than enough to experience.
For those looking for some pre-game reading material on the match, here are some suggestions:
Now here is SBI’s breakdown of what you could see tonight:
Here are the lineups we could see tonight:
Richards———Ubiparipovic———-Van Den Bergh
These are by no means the guaranteed lineups. Andrew Boyens is dealing with a broken forearm and is very questionable. If he can’t go then look for Carlos Mendes to get the call in central defense. He hasn’t played there this year for the first team, but he was solid there as a starter in previous years and saw action there in reserve team play.
Real Salt Lake also has a variety of lineup options. RSL could go with Ian Joy at left back, but if you saw what Dane Richards did to Wade Barrett you would expect Jason Kreis to go with the faster Russell. Chris Wingert actually did a good job against Richards in the 1-1 tie at Rio Tinto Stadium, but look for Russell to get the call this time.
Then you have the right wing position, where I have Dema Kovalenko penciled in but you could certainly see Clint Mathis there. If Jason Kreis wants to go after the Red Bulls defense he’ll start Mathis. if Kreis wants to control possession you could see Kovalenko.
Here are some of the top match-ups to watch:
Dane Richards vs. Robbie Russell. Whether it’s Russell or Chris Wingert, somebody is going to have to slow down Richards, who torched the Houston Dynamo last week and merits strong defensive consideration.
Juan Pablo Angel vs. Nat Borchers. Angel beat Jamison Olave for a goal in the first meeting between these teams, but Borchers had a better showing when the teams met at Rio Tinto last month. Coming off a bit of a quiet game against Houston (his penalty kick notwithstanding), Angel should be able to create a good chance or two.
Luke Sassano vs. Javier Morales. One of the most dynamic midfielders in the league, Morales is quick, shifty and a deadly passer. Juan Pietravallo has done a good job against him in the two previous meetings but he is unlikely to get the call tonight. Sassano’s strengths are that he is fast and tireless so he should be able to make Morales work hard. He did well against Dwayne DeRosario, but Morales is on form right now.
Yura Movsisyan vs. Diego Jimenez. Movsisyan is the hottest striker in MLS right now and Jimenez is going to have his work cut out for him, assuming Juan Carlos Osorio doesn’t decide to put him on Robbie Findley and let Mendes or Boyens try and contain Movsisyan.
Will Johnson vs. Chris Leitch. One of the most underrated performances in last week’s Red Bulls win was delivered by Chris Leitch, who will need another strong showing to shut down Johnson, an unpredictable winger who is naturally a striker and is prone to floating all over the field in search of chances.
Kyle Beckerman vs. Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Beckerman is one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS and will offer a very good test for Ubiparipovic, who was very good facing Ricardo Clark and Houston. Beckerman’s ability to get forward makes him a tough player to match up against, but Ubiparipovic has the work rate to keep up with him, while creating his own chances.
The key for the Red Bulls will be to attack RSL early and often. You can’t sit back and try and defense an RSL team with so many fast and dangerous players in attack. Weathering the early storm against Houston was essential, but RSL doesn’t have as strong a defense as Houston so chances will be there if the Red Bulls are aggressive from the start.
Real Salt Lake will look to test the Red Bulls defensive line with speedy forwards Movsisyan and Findley, as well as Johnson. Those three created countless chances when these teams met at Giants Stadium, but too many of those chances were missed. If the Red Bulls midfield can control possession the way it did the last time these teams met, then the visitors will have a good chance of pulling off the road victory. If the midfield loses the ball to much, and the RSL midfield can send more and more balls to the quick forwards, look for RSL to get plenty of good shots in against Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero.
I see RSL scoring early and really pushing the Red Bulls. If the Red Bulls can keep it together, then a comeback is entirely possible. If not, then RSL will cruise to a victory and place in the 2008 MLS Cup.
What do you see happening tonight? Share your thoughts on tonight’s match in the comments section below.