When Real Salt Lake last faced off against the New York Red Bulls, the teams’ game day rosters made the match look like an intrasquad scrimmage: the match marked the first and only time last season that RSL would face off against former teammates Fabian Espindola, Jonny Steele, and Jamison Olave. Tonight’s game won’t have quite that same flavor, but this matchup between two squads currently in playoff position promises to be a good one.
When RSL and New York met in July of 2013, the Red Bulls pulled out some late-game magic to defeat RSL and steal all 3 points at Red Bull Arena in a game that featured three penalty kicks. The makeshift Claret-and-Cobalt lineup lacked Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, and Nick Rimando, who were away on Gold Cup duty, while Chris Wingert missed the game due to suspension for a red card received the preceding week against Sporting KC.
The game stands out the amazing flurry of goals that came in the final fifteen minutes. Trailing 2-1 as the 80th minute approached, RSL boss Jason Kreis called for an offensive-minded tactical shift. Kreis brought off defender Lovel Palmer in favor of striker Joao Plata and simultaneously shifted from his trademark diamond 4-4-2 to an attack-heavy 4-3-3. The change paid immediate dividends, as Alvaro Saborio promptly scored in the 80th minute before capping off a hat trick with his third goal of the game in the 82nd minute, a play featuring a spectacular finish by the Costa Rican:
However, the lead wouldn’t last. A late penalty was called against defender Aaron Maund for a foul on RSL-turned-Red Bull forward Fabian Espindola, and Espindola converted the ensuing spot kick to equalize. New York capped off the comeback with a 94th minute goal by Dax McCarty assisted by Brandon Barklage, sneaking away with a 4-3 victory.
RSL enters tonight’s match at 2-1-1 in its last four matches, coming off a 3-1 home victory against Eastern Conference bottom-dweller Montreal Impact last Thursday. The match wasn’t particularly pretty, and two of RSL’s goals came after Impact midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran was sent off for a studs-up tackle on Chris Schuler. Most importantly, the match featured the resurgence of Olmes Garcia, who netted both of RSL’s second half goals to seal the victory. Prior to the game against the Impact, Garcia had found himself in the midst of a scoring drought a full calendar year in length. Netting twice against Montreal will hopefully give the young forward the boost of confidence he needs to fill in for an injured Alvaro Saborio.
Meanwhile, New York comes to Utah having lost only once in its last seven games, but also winning only twice in that same span. This season’s bright spot has been the outstanding forward play of Bradley Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips has accounted for five of the Red Bulls’ eight goals over the last four games, and the Englishman leads MLS in goals scored with 17. Contributing to that prodigious tally is Wright-Phillips’s setup man, Thierry Henry, who leads the league in assists.
Stats of the Match
- At 0-4-4, New York has never won a match in Utah, even when Real Salt Lake played its games at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
- The last four matches between the teams at Rio Tinto Stadium have been completely dominated by the home side. In that stretch from 2009 to 2012, RSL won all four matches, outscoring New York by a total of 8-0. In fact, the Red Bulls have only scored a single goal at the RioT, logged almost six years ago in October 2008.
- If RSL continues its home form against New York, Nick Rimando could finally log his 112th career shutout, which would tie him for the all-time MLS record currently held by Kevin Hartman.
Game Time: 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time