SANDY — Minnesota United has only been in MLS since 2017, but already it has proven to be one of Real Salt Lake’s biggest challenges.
In eight games over the past four years, RSL is 1-4-3 against Minnesota. That includes a scoreless draw at the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this summer, and then a 4-0 drubbing in Minnesota just three weeks ago.
This Sunday, RSL returns to the scene of that rough second half showing in hopes of a better performance at Allianz Field (5:30 p.m. MDT, KMYU).
Success may depend on the line-up coach Freddy Juarez chooses to trot out.
In RSL’s previous trip to Minnesota, it was in the midst of a stretch of five games in 14 days, and Juarez used that match as a chance to rest most his regulars with a make-shift line-up.
That starting 11 kept it close in a scoreless first half, but fatigue settled in after halftime and that group was run off the field in the second half.
RSL’s schedule is still pretty chaotic, but not as strenuous as a couple weeks ago. It has a full week off after this weekend before returning home against Los Angeles FC next Sunday. That should allow Juarez to start a first-choice squad at Minnesota on Sunday in hopes of picking up much-needed points in the Western Conference standings.
RSL sits in eight place in the West, just one point behind now-struggling Minnesota, and just three points behind third-place Kansas City.
Real Salt Lake will feel plenty of confidence heading into Minnesota after a strong midweek performance against the L.A. Galaxy in a 3-1 win.
Juarez was really pleased with how his team distributed the ball out of the back against L.A., particularly in the second half after reminding them at halftime to not have so many players checking back. Having the attacking players stay higher up the field meant the penetrating balls from the backline put the Galaxy under immediate pressure with just a couple of connected passes. Juarez praised the passing of Justen Glad and Nedum Onouha after the match.
Minnesota isn’t a team that will play much high press, therefore Juarez said his team needs to show the same courage with penetrating passes that it displayed against the Galaxy. That also means players need to be willing to make more runs in behind similar to L.A.
There wasn’t much of that in the previous two games against Minnesota.