Match Program: FC Cincinnati vs Real Salt Lake

Design: CSDIV / Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati is back at Nippert tomorrow for Friday night lights against Real Salt Lake. Lucas Muller from SB Nation’s RSL Soapbox gave us the skinny on this matchup between teams that are looking for maximum points from this contest.

RSL have found difficulty getting points away from Rio Tinto. How do you feel RSL needs to approach this game differently from past away games?

Real Salt Lake’s road form has been abysmal both last season (3 wins, 11 losses, 3 draws) and this year (3 losses and 1 draw). On the bright side, RSL has looked much more competitive in their last two road games, even if they lost. They were really unlucky to give up a last minute goal that deflected off of a defender in LA, and they were combative against Seattle until the final whistle. It’s certainly an improvement over that 5-0 loss to D.C.

In order to win, the team will need to bunker more than we normally see from them. That’s asking a lot, especially with Luiz likely out with injury. RSL’s backline has been a funny thing. Brooks Lennon is a forward who has been converted to right back, yet that experiment, which has been going on for about a year, isn’t finding much success. Last week’s backline saw Toia on the left, Glad and Onuoha at center back, and Herrera at right back. Herrera has often played on the left, but the whole defense looks better when players are in their natural positions. The only goal they conceded at the weekend was a brilliant free kick from Nani, so it’s hard to pin that on them too much. 

In the attack, the team will need to utilize their speed and their depth. Guys like Johnson and Baird are very fast and can make life difficult for defenders. RSL also has a ton of attackers that can sub on. If they can avoid conceding early, they should have an option to apply attacking pressure throughout, even if that’s through countering-attacking opportunities.

What’s your early season take on forward Sam Johnson, after a slow start due to injury and internationals, but now scoring his first goal?

Sam Johnson has a lot of potential for the team. He’s fast, hard-working, and intelligent. What impressed me most about his goal from last weekend is that he scored immediately after falling down. He didn’t give up on the play, but fought on and finished from a very difficult angle.

We’re hoping that his first goal is what opens the floodgates, but it’s too early to predict that. His stats are improving; he started in Seattle and Orlando games with 2 shots in Seattle and 3 against Orlando, one of which resulted in a goal.

In his first few games, he came on as a substitute, but wasn’t getting a lot of service.  If the players around him can build an understanding of his style of play, he’ll be a major threat.

RSL are conceding 2 goals against per match. Is the bigger problem in their defense green/poor defenders, or does it have more to do with Rimando and Beckerman aging out? Or something else?

It’s probably a combination of issues. Rimando has 18 saves this season, which isn’t bad. There are goals you think he would’ve saved five years ago, but he’s also come up big at moments this season as well.

My opinion is that playing Brooks Lennon as a right back has really hurt the defense. He’s a good winger/forward, but he struggles on the backline. At this point, the only green defenders are Lennon, when he’s at right back, and Herrera. But Herrera has played most of his career at right back and he looks confident, even if he has occasional mistakes.

Onuoha has been an incredible addition to the team, not just for what he brings on the field, but as a former captain at Queens Park Rangers and Manchester City player, his leadership and experience is a huge asset.

Glad broke his toe at the start of the year, but has rejoined the team and looked good against Orlando. RSL has three center backs that are starting quality between Silva, Onuoha, and Glad, and Glad looks determined to earn back his starting spot. 

I really believe the defense has improved this year, and the 5-0 blowout at D.C. was due to red cards and a penalty more than defensive mistakes. RSL has four losses this season, but three of those came when the team received a red card. A red is always going to change a game drastically, so if they can keep all 11 men on the pitch, they have a good shot at three points.

Everton Luiz left the Orlando match injured, what’s his status for this Friday’s contest and how important is the Brazilian to the team?

Everton has been the most impactful addition to the team this year. The midfield was a real struggle for RSL last season and Everton has done an outstanding job as a box-to-box player. Beckerman was never a fast player and has lost a step in the last few years, but Luiz’s speed has paired really well. This injury is the one that makes me very nervous. Nick Besler filled in well for Everton when he exited last Saturday, but it’s certainly a drop off in talent between the two.

A big thanks to Lucas for his time and insights on this week’s matchup. Be sure to check out their stuff at RSL Soapbox and stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of Friday’s match.

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