Categorized | Also Noted

RSL travels to New England in search of three points

Posted on 02 October 2010 by kali

From Salt Lake City to Atlanta, Toronto, and now New England, Real Salt Lake’s late-season schedule has taken the team from coast-to-coast within the span of a week.  The odyssey continues on Saturday evening when RSL visits the Revolution for an important league match (7:30 PM ET/5:30 PM MT, KUSG).

Since earning a last-gasp draw against Colorado at home last weekend, Real has experienced a series of travel delays which separated the team in Atlanta en route to Toronto, earned another critical draw against TFC to clinch a berth in the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League, and finally arrived in Boston for Saturday’s match.

Awaiting RSL is a Revs side that has been eliminated from playoff contention, yet has plenty to play for.  Not only will New England be looking to avenge a rough 5-0 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this season, but the players will be seeking to make an impression on coach Steve Nicol as he begins to look toward the 2011 season.  Nicol started his roster overhaul this week as the club released Edgaras Jankauskas on Thursday.

Defender Darrius Barnes told the Revs’ official website, “They’ve gotten the better of us the past two years. They beat us 6-0 last year and 5-0 this year, so we definitely want to come out and avenge that loss.”

If New England is to exact some revenge against RSL, they’ll need to do it without some key defensive players.  Kevin Alston (hamstring) and Cory Gibbs (infection) will be unavailable for Saturday’s match; however, Chris Tierney is likely to return to the lineup after recovering from a knee sprain sustained last week.

The injury-riddled Revs backline presents a huge opportunity for RSL — Nicol will have just three natural defenders at his disposal and is likely to use either Tierney or Pat Phelan to fill out a back four.  With Real scoring only one goal in its last two matches, the timing couldn’t be much better for Jason Kreis’ squad to rediscover its once-prolific scoring touch.

However, RSL has some injury issues of its own to balance, largely among the attacking players.  Javier Morales (quad strain) and Paulo Junior (hamstring strain) remain questionable, while Fabian Espindola (hamstring), Robbie Findley (knee), Nelson Gonzalez (foot), Ned Grabavoy (knee), and Alvaro Saborio (knee) are probable.  In addition, Real lost defender Chris Schuler for the season after he broke his foot in training earlier this week.

Although Real has already clinched a playoff spot, the Supporters’ Shield and home advantage in the playoffs remain key goals for the team, regardless of injuries and fatigue; earning three points at New England would help RSL’s chances significantly ahead of the team’s final three league games against New York, Dallas, and Colorado.

Defender Nat Borchers articulated RSL’s attitude about the Supporters’ Shield concisely, stating, “It’s still within our reach.”

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