Real Salt Lake will play its final CONCACAF match of the year on Tuesday at 8:00PM MDT at home against Herediano. RSL must win the game to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament with a score line of 1 – 0 or by a minimum of 2 goals.
ReAL dropped its first leg of the home and away series against Herediano in Costa Rica. Center back Nat Borchers ejected from the game with a red card. Center back Jamison Olave also left the match with a quadriceps injury and missed a couple of months of match action due to the injury.
Herediano is the current reigning Costa Rican champion. Despite significant controversial offseason turnover in the coaching staff and the player roster they are currently in first place in this CONCACAF group. They currently lead RSL by 3 points (Herediano 9, RSL 6).
Herediano will have to face some intimidating factors in Salt Lake if they want to knock off RSL on Tuesday, including altitude, cold, a jam packed noisy stadium, and a team who has again found its home dominance.
I expect Herediano to come to Utah looking for 0 – 0 draw as they will advance with that result. We will likely see the Costa Rican side bunker in around their penalty area and hope to not give up shots and goals. It is likely we will see them play with a lone striker looking for counter attacks much like we saw from the 10 man Seattle with Freddy Montero last week. We can count on histrionics being a large part of Herediano’s tactics to waste time as well.
RSL will be without star goal scoring forward and native Costa Rican Alvaro Saborio due to yellow card accumulation. It will be a challenge for RSL to break down the Herediano defense with Sabo’s absence, as they will not have the tall large bodied target in the box. They will have to rely upon the speed and fancy footwork of forwards like Fabian Espindola, Paulo Jr. and Emiliano Bonfigli. It is also possible we could see Justin Braun play in a target forward role, particularly as a substitute if the smaller forwards are unable to break down the Herediano defense. However with the recent tear Espindola has been on recently I think he is the guy to get the job done. I suspect we will see at least one goal from the hard working Argentine.
Paulo Jr. and midfielder Ned Grabavoy are both questionable for the match due to injury. Paulo Jr. picked up a foot injury in practice ahead of the Seattle match.
I predict a score line of 2 – 0 in RSL’s favor with a starting lineup of; GK Nick Rimando, DF Tony Beltran, DF Jamison Olave, DF Nat Borchers, DF Chris Wingert, MF Kyle Beckerman, MF Luis Gil, MF Will Johnson, MF Javier Morales, FW Emiliano Bonfigli, FW Fabian Espindola.
If ReAL advances they will begin the knockout round next spring.
RSL next face is the Vancouver Whitecaps for their final MLS season match at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps on October 27th at 7:00PM.
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