RSL host struggling Wizards

Posted on 06 June 2008 by Patrick McShane

Real Salt Lake (3-5-2, 11 pts.) look to continue their superb home form when they take on the Kansas City Wizards (3-4-2, 11 pts.) this Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Undefeated at home and coming off a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, it would appear that RSL are in perfect position to take on a Kansas City side which hasn’t won a league game since a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on April 20.

The Wizards look to get back on track on the road after losing three of their last four matches, all which were away from the friendly atmosphere of CommunityAmerica Ballpark. While they have struggled on the road, the Wizards were actually one of the early surprises of the MLS this season after winning three of their first five matches, including what was at the time a shocking 2-0 defeat of D.C. United on opening night.

Unfortunately, the optimism from this early season run has quickly faded as the Wizards embarked on a six game road-trip, stealing only one victory and one draw. Add to the equation the fact that they haven’t played a league game since a 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy on May 24, and one could be concerned about how they will round out the final match of this extended trip.

While the Wizards probably appreciated the rest this early in the season to recover from injuries, one would have to think they didn’t want this long of a lay off between matches. However, the team hasn’t been completely stagnant throughout the past two weeks. On Wednesday the Wizards met the Colorado Rapids in a U.S. Open Cup Qualifier match, winning 5-3 on penalty kicks after drawing 2-2 through extended time. While most teams rest their typical starters for USOC matches, the Wizard’s lineup was sprinkled with many players that should anticipate major playing time on Saturday as well.

On the other hand, RSL is coming into this match off a week that saw super-sub striker Robbie Findley voted MLS Player of the Week. Findley is RSL’s first Player of the Week winner since former striker Jeff Cunningham received the award after turning in a two-goal performance against FC Dallas in the 2007 season opener. It was a scintillating performance against San Jose that earned Findley this honor, as he scored the first goal of the match and assisted on the second, all after subbing in with three minutes left in the first half. Findley’s goal earned him the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week award as well.

Equaling Findley’s production was midfield maestro Javier Morales. Morales earned both a goal and assist, all after blowing an early opportunity for the lead in the third minute when he took a weak penalty kick straight into the arms of San Jose keeper Joe Cannon. If one thing has become abundantly clear throughout the season, it’s that as Morales goes, so does RSL. With last week’s assist, Morales tied Landon Donovan for the league lead, tallying six through nine matches played.

Fans should expect a grudge match on Saturday; with Wizards looking to end their road trip on a high note while RSL wants to maintain their home form as it has been their only consistent trait throughout the season. Kick off is at 9 pm EST (7:00 pm MST) and can be seen live on MLS DirectKick.

• Midfielder Nathan Sturgis is still listed as out on the team’s injury report with a hamstring strain suffered over a month ago against Toronto FC.
• Ian Joy returns from a one-game suspension for a red card earned against Dallas two weeks ago, though it seems unlikely that he will return to the starting lineup. Rookie Tony Beltran has played excellent this season and seems poised to hold his place in the starting eleven regardless of Joy’s status.

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