SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A pair of teams looking to get back on track will meet for an all-important Independence Day showdown on Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the New England Revolution will visit last year’s MLS Cup runner-up Real Salt Lake.
The action begins at 10 p.m. ET, with both Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub covering the game.
Current Form: Both clubs looking to regain footing and put an end to recent slides
As of late May, there was no question that New England and RSL were two of Major League Soccer’s hottest teams. The Revs had rattled off five straight wins to climb to the top of the East, while RSL had matched the league record by starting the season unbeaten through 12 matches (6-0-6).
Both teams, however, have since suffered a minor dip in form.
The Revs (7-6-2, 23 pts.) have followed up their five-game winning streak with three straight losses, most recently a 3-1 setback at the hands of the Philadelphia Union last weekend in Foxborough. It was a result – and performance – which head coach Jay Heaps said required plenty of evaluation, and after breaking down the film, he’s confident they’ve pinpointed the specific areas where improvement will be required moving forward.
“I think top to bottom there were areas that need improvement; areas where we had been strong, and areas where it’s kind of been an Achilles heel all year,” he said. “I think we’ve got to get better at all those components.”
Real Salt Lake (6-3-7, 25 pts.) is in the midst of a similar stretch, having followed up a lengthy unbeaten start to the season by dropping three of the last four matches. That includes a rare home loss in the club’s most recent game at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the Portland Timbers came from behind to claim a 3-1 victory.
Past Meetings: Revs hoping to overcome recent struggles against Real Salt Lake
Perhaps more so than any other team, RSL has proven a difficult matchup for the Revs in recent years.
New England enters Friday night’s showdown winless in its last six meetings (0-5-1) with Real Salt Lake, having last won a match in this series on Aug. 23, 2009, on the strength of a Kheli Dube hat trick. Since winning the first two contests in RSL’s 2005 expansion season, New England is 2-8-4 against the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Victory has thus far eluded the Revs in four visits (0-3-1) to Rio Tinto Stadium, although they did pick up their only point at the venue in a wild 3-3 draw on Independence Day three years ago.
Injury Report: Dorman suspended for NE; Beckerman/Rimando unlikely to feature for RSL
There will be at least one enforced change to the Revolution lineup on Friday night as holding midfielder Andy Dorman will serve a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. The player likeliest to plug that gap is Homegrown midfielder Scott Caldwell, who started 23 games at that position last season.
Caldwell has featured predominantly in a substitute role this year – making eight appearances off the bench with just two starts – but a pair of recent 90-minute showings in the U.S. Open Cup will have him ready should he be handed the opportunity to start on Friday night.
“Those definitely help a lot,” Caldwell said of the Open Cup appearances. “Especially getting results there, too. It helps getting 90 minutes and just kind of being comfortable again, getting in the full game and being ready if called upon.”
One player who won’t be an option in that holding midfield role is Shalrie Joseph, who continues to be sidelined by a left calf strain. Joseph is the only player currently listed on the Revolution’s injury report.
Real Salt Lake continues without the services of top-scoring forward Alvaro Saborio, who will be sidelined for the better part of the regular season after breaking a bone in his foot in Costa Rica’s buildup to the World Cup. Saborio notched six goals and two assists in 10 appearances before suffering the injury.
Meanwhile, midweek reports indicate that Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando could return from the U.S. National Team in time for Friday night’s game, but RSL head coach Jeff Cassar told MLSsoccer.com that they will “probably not” appear against the Revs after spending the past month-and-a-half on World Cup duty.
Final Thoughts: Despite coaching change, RSL maintains consistent philosophy
“It’s one of the teams where maybe the coach changed, but the personnel and the approach stays the exact same,” Heaps said of RSL’s head-coaching transition from Jason Kreis to longtime assistant Cassar. “Jeff and Jason I know extremely well and they’ve been together for a long time, so a lot of their ideas, a lot of RSL’s philosophy over the last seven, eight years has been based upon Jeff’s ideas along with Jason’s ideas.
“The two of them together really built a foundation along with (General Manager and Senior VP of Soccer Operations) Garth Lagerwey. Playing against that team, you really know that they have the same base.”