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RSL looks to make history against Red Bulls

Posted on 03 September 2010 by kali

Fans have been looking forward to Saturday’s Real Salt Lake-New York Red Bulls contest at Rio Tinto Stadium (7 pm MT, KUSG) all summer long as a matchup featuring some of the league’s top players.

That was before national team coaches around the globe starting making callups for this weekend.

The FIFA international dates have affected both teams significantly.  RSL’s Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and Will Johnson (Canada) will be away with their national teams, as will New York’s Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Dane Richards (Jamaica), Roy Miller (Costa Rica), Bouna Coundoul (Senegal), and Juan Agudelo (U.S. U-20).

That means Real will be looking to make history — a win or tie will allow RSL to equal the league record of 22 consecutive matches unbeaten at home — without two of its likely starters.

Coach Jason Kreis said of the conflict, “At this time of the year, it’s difficult to say to your fans and your ownership, ‘By the way, we’ll be missing these three fantastic players because they have to go represent their country.’ I would like to see the MLS fall in line with the rest of the world in that.”

Fortunately for Real, the injury bug seems to have left the team behind for the time being, as Jamison Olave (knee sprain) remains the only concern, although he is probable for Saturday’s match.  The Red Bulls, however, have a spate of injuries:  Giorgi Chirgadze, Luke Sassano, Brian Nielsen, and Jeremy Hall are all currently unavailable.

Although New York will be missing a number of key players, coach Hans Backe still has plenty of attacking firepower to throw at RSL.  While Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel have gotten much of the attention, midfielder Joel Lindpere has been a key force in the Red Bulls’ resurgence in 2010 and Macoumba Kandji remains a threat off the bench.

Kreis’ squad will have had plenty of time to recover from its recent international travels and prepare for New York.  While Robbie Findley is the most likely candidate to start in Saborio’s place up front, a midfield replacement for Johnson remains more of a question.  Without a direct substitute for Johnson’s defensive cover, Kreis may opt to go with Nelson Gonzalez, who acquitted himself well against Cruz Azul last week, or with Andy Williams’ ability to retain possession.

Regardless of the players on the pitch, RSL  has a tremendous opportunity to gain momentum not only in the Western Conference standings, but in the run leading up to the playoffs as well.

“We’re in a good spot. We’ve put ourselves in a good position. We’ve got 40 points with 8 games to go and last year we won the MLS Cup with 40 points, so we’re definitely in a much better spot than we were last year,” said Johnson of the team’s current standing. “At the same time there’s still a lot of room to grow, we’re a few plays away from really being out front in this league.”

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