Both teams have a quick turnaround from midweek matches in this clash, with RSL having flown in from Costa Rica, where the club advanced to the CCL final.
New England Revolution: Ilija Stolica was the late game hero for the New England Revolution. The Serbian forward scored 3 minutes into extra time to earn a 1-1 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps. New England rests in second place in the Eastern Conference and is undefeated with a 1-0-3 record. Captain Shalrie Joseph and Pat Phelan have been doing well in the central midfield roles for the Revs. Joesph is always dangerous going forward and currently leads the team in scoring with two goals. Phelan has been playing a more holding midfield role and has been confident in his defensive duties.
Real Salt Lake: It wasn't always pretty, but RSL managed to walk out of one of the most hostile soccer environments on the planet (Saprissa Stadium) with a berth in the CONCACAF Champion's League Final. Perhaps the defining characteristic of this team is their composure: When a wondergoal from Saprissa to start the second half put the series outcome in question, Salt Lake refused to fold and equalized 15 minutes later to remove any doubt. To do that in such a tough environment shows that Real have icewater in their veins.
New England: Injuries are really hurting New England early this season. The loss of Marko Perovic has been felt on the field for certain. Matt Reis could possibly miss his second consecutive match in goal. Off season acquisition Ousmane Dabo has yet to make his first appearance for the club in central midfield. To top off the injury issues the Revs have lost rookie defender AJ Soares for the match against Real Salt Lake. New England have not been running at full power at any point in this year. New signing Rajko Lekic could possibly make his MLS debut on Saturday for the Revolution. Lekic could be the offensive talent that New England has needed this season.
Salt Lake: Game management was an issue at times against Saprissa. MLS fans are used to seeing RSL in control almost always, but there were long stretches in Costa Rica when they were back on their heels, reacting to the flow of the game instead of dictating it. That's a recipe for losing, which is exactly what Salt Lake did down there; their first loss of 2011.
New England: In order for New England to be successful in the offensive front they need to improve this.weekend. Passing is something that is just not happening for the Revolution. In the past two games the Revs have not strung together very many passes. In the game against Vancouver there were only a few spots in the game where passes were connecting. Something that really needs to improve is the play on the wings from Zak Boggs and Sainey Nyassi. Both outside midfielders had a hard time sending in quality crosses. Look to see Chris TIerney slot in on the outside left midfield against Real Salt Lake.
Salt Lake: Don't expect Real to adapt their game to New England in any way - that's not Jason Kreis' style. But there should be a few more reserves than usual in this lineup, most notably at center back where I expect Tuesday's hero Jamison Olave to be given the night off. Due to chronic knee issues, Olave usually doesn't play on turf but did so anyway against Saprissa. I would be shocked if he played back-to-back matches on turf on 4 days rest. Expect Chris Schuler to take Olave's spot. Schuler is a capable backup, but he's not Olave either.
New England: Both teams had midweek games and very long trips back towards New England. This is going to show on the field on Saturday. Look to see both teams play some fresher legs in order to keep the game pace up. New England has not had good results against Real Salt Lake recently as they are 1-3-1 in the last five matches against the team.
Salt Lake: Salt Lake's players and staff have publicly acknowledged that the Saprissa match was physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, not to mention all the travel and little rest between games. And no disrespect to New England or MLS league play, but this match doesn't have quite the luster of Champion's League play. On top of that, a showdown with rival Colorado looms next Wednesday. Real could be ripe for a letdown this weekend.
New England: Injuries and suspensions are going to take their toll on New England. I can see the Revs putting up a fight in this match but Real Salt Lake are a very strong team. I see the result being 2-1 in favor of Real Salt Lake.
Salt Lake: It's hard to imagine RSL playing their best ball against New England given the week they've had and how difficult it is for them to play their game on turf. That said, the Revs' home draw against Portland was less-than-impressive. Real Salt Lake 1-0 New England Revolution, Javier Morales with the goal.
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