The latest Chivas USA match is almost upon us, and with that, time to look at the upcoming opponent. The Goats face Real Salt Lake in Utah Saturday, and the game should be a good test for Chivas, who look improved but need to consistently show it against good opposition. In order to get a sense of how things are going for RSL, I spoke to Matt Montgomery of SB Nation Real Salt Lake blog RSL Soapbox. Big thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer my questions, and if you want to see the other side of the exchange, take a look at my answers to his questions.
The Goat Parade asks RSL Soapbox:
1. Real Salt Lake have been rather inconsistent in their form so far this season, and currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference (though only two points behind Chivas USA). Is there a particular reason or set of reasons for the back-and-forth start, or has it been related more to luck?
There are definitely reasons RSL has had back-and-forth form, and that's largely down to what we might accurately call a culling of the ranks during the offseason. The loss of important players like Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Jamison Olave meant we were in a situation where we had to learn as a unit again. Add in injuries to key players early on - Nat Borchers, Javier Morales and Chris Wingert, chiefly - and you've got a recipe for some early struggles. I won't discount luck as playing a role - it always does - but the reasons are plenty. Luckily, one of those reasons is finally clearing up as players come back from injuries, but squad cohesion will inevitably take a bit of time to reach the previously towering heights.
2. One of the talking points entering the season for RSL was that they would be integrating more new players to the lineup than they have had to the past few years. Who are some of the key additions, and how are they settling into the team?
The key additions, it would seem, are all up front: Robbie Findley, Joao Plata, Olmes Garcia, Devon Sandoval. They're all capable attacking players in differing styles and levels of play, but the key additions mostly come here. Of course, we've had plenty of additions: Khari Stephenson perhaps comes to mind, and Lovel Palmer has seen significant minutes and fared reasonably well. They're all settling into the team quite well, which is refreshing considering we have a fairly tight-knit squad. They've showed repeatedly, though, that they're eager to welcome players into the group, and maybe that's down to scouting players for ability as well as personality.
3. What are some of the vulnerabilities you have noticed in RSL's style or game plan so far this season, and how might Chivas USA capitalize on those issues?
It's difficult to say, but certainly some of the vulnerabilities there historically remain. We're weak on the wings - opting to largely concede them in the middle third. We obviously make up for it tactically, but execution becomes the bigger concern there. The difficulty, I think, arises from the scattered execution through the early weeks of the season. As one of MLS's most tactically defined sides - and I purposefully avoid rigid here, because things are quite fluid in the tactical outlay itself - Chivas USA has the advantage of preparing specifically for us. They'll be eager to press forward on the wings, of course, and both full backs, whoever starts, will have their work cut out for them.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this game?
6-3. I'm terrible at making predictions, so I figured I'd just go all-out this time and see where it takes me. Seriously, though, I predict a game with about 52-48 possession in RSL's favor, some excellent breakaway opportunities for Chivas USA, and a smattering of missed calls by the referee. How's that?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!