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All-Star festivities behind it, RSL travels to Chicago

Posted on 31 July 2009 by kali

It’s back to reality for Real Salt Lake.

After hosting the 2009 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, RSL is set to travel to Chicago for what promises to be a tough road match against the Fire on Saturday.  The Fire currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference after a 0-0 draw last weekend at Seattle and will be looking to regain the top spot with three points against Real.  Meanwhile, RSL had to overcome a sub-par first-half effort to defeat FC Dallas 4-2 in a thriller last weekend, buoyed by Yura Movsisyan’s Player of the Week-winning performance in the second half.

On paper, the two teams appear to have a lot of star power in common ahead of Saturday’s match.  Chicago’s Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco all played in the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday against Real’s Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Will Johnson.  However, with all of the travel and All Star-related obligations, those six players may be a bit fatigued.

Luckily for RSL coach Jason Kreis, he’ll have plenty of options in the midfield.  With Beckerman back with Real for the first time after the Gold Cup and Johnson in excellent form after his own Gold Cup experience, Kreis will be able to augment the core Morales-Clint Mathis-Ned Grabavoy midfield that has seen significant playing time in the last few weeks.

Real may not have the newest weapon in its arsenal against the Fire, however.  Rachid El Khalifi arrived in Utah earlier this week and had been expected to travel with the team to Chicago, although recent reports have him staying in Salt Lake to work on his fitness.  El Khalifi, a Rotterdam native who had played for Dutch Eerste side SC Cambuur-Leewarden for the past two seasons, is familiar with RSL’s new 4-3-3 system but is still in preseason form.

General manager Garth Lagerwey said of El Khalifi, “We liked Rachid in preseason and he fit in well with our group, but we weren’t sure he was the perfect match as a tucked in midfielder in a diamond system. With our switch to a 4-3-3 formation we needed wide players, and Rachid has played in this system his entire career. Adding him for our stretch run gives us a reliable, committed, and veteran player who has excelled in big games.”

Robbie Russell is out with a hip flexor injury sustained last week against Dallas, while Clint Mathis, Yura Movsisyan, and Jamison Olave all have minor injuries but should be available.  David Horst was recalled from what was intended to be a season-long loan to the USL Austin Aztex to bolster the ranks after Russell’s injury; Jean Alexandre will play with Austin this weekend instead.

Fire coach Denis Hamlett will welcome Logan Pause back from the Gold Cup; however, midfielder John Thorrington will be suspended after receiving a red card last week in Seattle. Chicago’s only injury is to Brian McBride, who is expected to be out for the rest of the season after shoulder surgery.

The match will kick off at 7:30 local time (6:30 MT) and can be seen in Utah on KUTV 2.2/Comcast 111.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. soccer goals Says:

    Kreis will be out this week.

  2. Patrick McShane Says:

    While he'll be suspended for the match, he'll still be in the press box at Toyota park with access to radio communication to his assistant coaches.

    I actually remember a time last season when he was suspended from a match and enjoyed his time in the press box because it gave him a different perspective in terms of formations and how RSL were rotating. Let's hope this week's time in the press box will give him a different perspective to help RSL make a push to the playoffs.

  3. Georg Says:

    Great Point,!
    I thought about the same thing ,and as a coach who in the past seemed lost this could be another chance for Kries to learn how better to manage a match.

  4. Georg Says:

    Great Point,!
    I thought about the same thing ,and as a coach who in the past seemed lost this could be another chance for Kries to learn how better to manage a match.

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