Match Preview: RSL vs. Philadelphia Union

Expect another tough, physical contest as the Union travel to Rio Tinto to face Nick Rimando and RSL Saturday evening.

Match time: Saturday 9:30pm ET (7:30pm MT)

Location: (Sandy, UT)

Union form: WWWWD

  • 2/18 vs. Costa Rica U-23s W 3-0*
  • 2/21 vs. London FC W 6-0*
  • 2/25 vs. Columbus Crew SC W 1-1 (5-3 PKs)*
  • 2/28 vs. New York Red Bulls W 3-1*
  • 3/7 vs. Colorado Rapids D 0-0


  • 2/18 vs. NE Revolution W 1-0*
  • 2/21 vs. FC Tuscon W 3-1*
  • 2/26 vs. Sporting KC W 2-1*
  • 2/28 vs. Colorado W 2-1*
  • 3/7 at Portland Timbers D 0-0

* – preseason

The Philadelphia Union (0-1-0, W-D-L) travel to Sandy, Utah this weekend to face Real Salt Lake (0-1-0) as both teams look to open their 2015 accounts at Rio Tinto. Last weekend, both clubs survived physical contests which saw no goals scored, but counted a total of 75 fouls and 11 bookings between the two games. And while they’ll look to hold their defensive form and help their world-class goalkeepers attain another clean sheet, both Philadelphia and RSL will look for ways to get their offenses headed in the right direction.

The Union attack was generally impressive in Saturday’s scoreless draw with the Colorado Rapids, creating 16 chances (4 on goal) in the game. But the offense really seemed to click once Chaco Maidana came off the bench to play midfield for the second half. The team began the game with CJ Sapong attacking up front alongside Fernando Aristeguieta, but Maidana was subbed in after Sapong suffered a head injury late in the first half of the surprisingly chippy contest.  While the offense looked competent, they found themselves unable to finish despite being on a man advantage for the final 20+ minutes of the game. This was thanks in large part to Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin, and 49 clearances from the Rapids defenders.

For RSL, it was US National teamer Nick Rimando to the rescue once again as the “Wall of the Wasatch” made several stunning saves and withstood six on-target shots in the club’s contest at Portland to salvage a point for his team, whose offensive side created comparatively few opportunities at goal. This game is likely to be another tale of two goaltenders as Rimando & Rais M’Bohli line up opposite one another Saturday evening. M’Bohli wasn’t tested like Rimando was this past weekend, facing zero shots on goal from the Rapids. And while it’s difficult to tell if that was more a result of Colorado’s fledgling offense or the Union’s defensive effort, Steven Vitoria and the Union’s back line must step up as they face a much more competent offense this week.

However, the key to the game will be how the Union offense fares against Rimando and the Salt Lake defense. A short-handed Portland launched an aggressive attack on RSL last Saturday night, but the defense totaled 62 clearances during the game for the away side. The RSL back line blocked half of the Timbers’ 18 attempts and the six shots that ended up on target were all saved. The defense never broke and Rimando refused to budge. Look for Union manager Jim Curtin to similarly drive the game forward in the hopes that Aristeguieta, Sebastien Le Toux, and Andrew Wenger will be able to find openings. And with CJ Sapong likely out due to a broken bone in his cheek, look for Chaco Maidana to be on the field from the opening whistle, creating scoring chances from midfield. It remains to be seen if Rimando and the defense at RSL are up to the task again.

For the Union, expect another hard-nosed, physical contest at Rio Tinto. RSL committed the second most fouls in MLS last week, trailing only Philadelphia’s week one opponent, Colorado.

Philadelphia will look to do something they’ve never done when they visit Sandy: beat RSL. The Union is 0-5-2 against Salt Lake all-time. In their last three meetings, Salt Lake and the Union have played to three draws including a pair of 2-2 ties and a scoreless contest. Both teams will be hoping for a more favorable result (and all three points) this time around.

Photo courtesy of @PhilaUnion