New Look Squads:
Both Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union will take the pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium with some new faces in the starting lineups.
The Union started all three of their new offseason acquisitions in their season opener last week against Colorado. Steven Vitoria got the start at center back while on loan from Benfica and forwards C.J. Sapong (via trade from Sporting KC) and Fernando Aristeguieta (via loan from FC Nantes) got the starting nod up top for Philadelphia. Unfortunately for the Union, neither of their new attackers were able to find the back of the net – Philadelphia began their season with a 0-0 draw against Colorado at PPL Park.
For RSL the changes in personnel were different, yet familiar. Center back Jamison Olave returned to the club after a two year stint with the New York Red Bulls and anchored a backline that held the Portland Timbers scoreless in their season opener last weekend at Providence Park.
This week, rumors swirled around that new Jamaican defender Demar Phillips would get his first start at the wing in place of Abdoulie Mansally. Phillips is recovering from a muscle strain suffered early in the preseason but head coach Jeff Cassar mentioned that his new defender is close to 100 percent.
RSL vs Philadelphia
Both RSL and the Union began their 2015 campaigns with less than desirable offensive performances.
Philadelphia controlled the ball for the majority of the match with a 62.1 percent possession against the Colorado Rapids. Things looked bleak for Colorado after Bobby Burling was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the match in the 68th minute, but four saves from Rapids keeper Clint Irwin were enough to keep the Union off of the score sheet at home. Philadelphia finished the match completing 74 percent of their passes with five corners and four shots on goal.
RSL faithful got their first look at the club’s new 4-3-3 formation last Saturday in Portland and it’s no surprise that there were some growing pains that came with it. The claret and cobalt were still able to control the majority of possession with just over 53 percent but there was almost no meaningful possession in the attacking third, highlighted by the 11-0 corner kick advantage in favor of the Timbers. The backline was able to save the night on several occasions including a goal line clearance from center back Chris Schuler off of a Michael Nanchoff shot in stoppage time. RSL keeper Nick Rimando also finished with five saves to aid in his side’s 0-0 draw on the road.
Over the past two seasons these clubs have played two incredibly entertaining matches with plenty of late game drama.
In 2013 RSL and Philadelphia played to a 2-2 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Union struck first as Connor Casey found an unmarked Sebastian Le Toux in the box for an easy re-direction goal on RSL’s backup keeper Josh Saunders in the 13th minute. After former RSL left back Lovell Palmer was shown a straight red in the 59th minute, a shorthanded RSL struck back with a headed goal from Luis Gil off of a Javier Morales corner kick in the 75th minute. The Union wasted no time in retaking the lead as Connor Casey made his presence known again with a slotted goal off of a counter attack just one minute later. Then, in stoppage time, things crumbled for the Union as RSL was awarded a penalty kick after a Raymond Gaddis handball in the box. Javier Morales put away the PK and Philadelphia left Salt Lake City with a lone point instead of three.
2014 saw another 2-2 draw play out between these two sides, this time at PPL Park in Philadelphia. RSL was awarded a penalty kick in just the 4th minute of the match after Olmes Garcia was fouled hard just inside the box. Union keeper Zach MacMath blocked the PK from Alvaro Saborio but was unable to stop the rebounded shot from Luke Mulholland as RSL took an early 1-0 lead. Philadelphia answered in the 55th minute with an Andrew Wenger goal off of a beautifully crossed ball from Vincent Nogueiria. RSL thought they would leave Philadelphia with three points in hand after a goal from captain Kyle Beckerman in the 85th minute, but the Union had other plans as Maurice Edu headed home a corner in the 90th minute to maintain another draw with the rocky mountain club.
Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union will kickoff from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy UT, at 7:30 p.m. MST.