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Real Salt Lake-LAFC a clash of teams needing to put points on the board

Real Salt Lake forward Justin Meram (9) tries to get a kick off ahead of Seattle Sounders defender Shane O’Neill (27) as Real Salt Lake and Seattle play an MSL soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Utah on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.
Real Salt Lake forward Justin Meram (9) tries to get a kick off ahead of Seattle Sounders defender Shane O’Neill (27) as Real Salt Lake and Seattle play an MSL soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy Utah on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Without a win over the past three games, Real Salt Lake returns to Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night with rested regulars, hoping to capitalize against struggling Los Angeles FC.

While RSL was getting run off the field in Minnesota on Sunday night, LAFC suffered a similar fate at the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday, falling to 1-3 over its past four games.

LAFC looks like a shell of its former self nine games into the 2020 season, currently sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference a year after winning the MLS Supporters Shield with a 21-4-9 record.

Despite LAFC’s struggles, it’s been just slightly better than Real Salt Lake, which sits one point behind in eighth place in the West.

Both teams will be hungry to secure points knowing the regular season won’t be nearly as long as previous years because of COVID-19.

“They haven’t been in the best form so I think they’re going to be really ready to go to get back to what they know they’re capable of,” RSL’s Corey Baird said.

For Real Salt Lake, it will be hungry to show what it’s capable of as well after falling 4-0 at Minnesota over the weekend while many of its regulars rested.

Fatigue seemed to catch up with RSL in the second half as it conceded all four goals after the scoreless first half.

“I don’t like losing 4-0, believe me, the players don’t like losing 4-0, but I think it was two different halves,” RSL coach Freddy Juarez said.

The lineup and formation Juarez used against Minnesota isn’t something he’d ever pick under ideal circumstances, but three games into a stretch of five games in 15 days he knew his regulars needed a night off.

Juarez will likely make nine or 10 changes to the lineup for the LAFC match.

“With two or three games a week it’s definitely going to be tough on guys, don’t have as much time to prepare for different opponents, don’t have as much rest time, but at the same point in time everyone is in the same boat,” Baird said.

LAFC hasn’t dealt with the circumstances well either. One LAFC regular will be forced to rest against RSL as Mark-Anthony Kaye is suspended after a second half red card against the Galaxy.

Despite just three wins this year, LAFC still leads MLS with 21 goals scored compared to just 13 for RSL. The struggle for both teams as of late is keeping the ball out of the net, which could make for a high-scoring game.

“Very good team. Their playing identity is the same home or away, against any team, 4-3-3, very dynamic, very good center mids,” Juarez said.

After Wednesday, Real Salt Lake has another home game Saturday against rival Colorado, which will be the end of the latest phase of MLS regular season games. The league has yet to announce the schedule for the second phase of regular season games in home markets.