Real Salt Lake will look to ‘bring the fight first’ when it faces potent Minnesota
Minnesota leads MLS with 10 goals score in 2020, while RSL is tied for the fewest goals conceded with just one
SALT LAKE CITY — Only one team in MLS has secured maximum points from its 2020 games — both pre- and post-COVID-19 — and on Friday Real Salt Lake is the next team tasked with slowing Minnesota’s mojo.
Kansas City had a great chance in the Group D openers Sunday, but Minnesota rallied for the MLS is Back win with two goals in stoppage time and is tied with RSL atop the group with three points.
The group leaders meet Friday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN) with the winner assured of a spot in the knockout rounds.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game. Minnesota is playing really well and has lot of confidence so we’re going to go out and give it our all, give it our best shot and hopefully we can win and get into the next round,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
Beckerman played 67 minutes in RSL’s win over Colorado on Sunday before being subbed off with cramps, but he said he’s fine and ready for Friday if called upon.
RSL coach Freddy Juarez said in the lead-up to the MLS is Back Tournament that he planned on using a rotation of players to combat the congested schedule and Orlando heat, so expect some changes to the lineup on Friday.
Whoever’s in the lineup, Beckerman said Real Salt Lake needs to “bring the fight first.” He said the quality can come after that, but first and foremost is showing Minnesota it won’t be easy to play through.
RSL did that to Colorado throughout the first half Sunday, then created chances from that hard defensive work.
“We’re expecting a very tough match,” said Juarez. “We know if we want to compete with them we have to outmatch their energy. That’s got to be the foundation, the bare minimum of this game, and then from there hopefully the tactics we choose are the right tactics.”
Sporting Kansas City showed the blueprint against Minnesota through the first 90 minutes last Sunday, but it faded in stoppage time as the pressure mounted playing with just 10 men.
Minnesota owns a 3-1-2 all-time record against Real Salt Lake, including a 3-1 win in the most recent matchup last September.
In Minnesota’s two games before the MLS suspension on March 12 it scored eight goals in two matches. After tacking on two more against Kansas City it leads MLS with 10 goals scored. RSL, meanwhile, is tied for the fewest goals allowed at just one in three matches.
Corralling Kevin Molino, who leads Minnesota with three goals in 2020, will be one of the keys.
“Kevin Molino, when he’s healthy he’s a top player, extremely silky, can score and assist so he’s someone to definitely keep an eye on,” said Beckerman.
RSL’s final group game will be next Wednesday against Kansas City. With a win Friday though, it would secure a spot in the knockout round, which will allow Juarez to rest some of his regulars in the group finale.