Real Salt Lake will open the 2019 season on Saturday in Houston, here’s what you need to know ahead of the match:
1. Real Salt Lake closed out their pre-season in Arizona last weekend with two losses, to Dallas and Portland. But with a lot of additions made in the off-season, this RSL team is deep and anxious to get started. With so much depth on the roster now, there’s are many line-up possibilities with players like Kreilach and Baird capable of playing in multiple positions. There’s also been positive feedback in regard to RSL Academy products Tate Schmitt and Erik Holt, with Tony Beltran acknowledging their ability to adapt to MLS play quickly in training.
Major League Soccer also made changes to the season schedule, condensing the schedule and adding more midweek games, in order to avoid the MLS Playoffs being interrupted by the November international break.
2. RSL beat the Houston Dynamo by a score of 2-1 home and away in 2018, the away win coming mid-August and proving to be a turning point in the season for RSL. Rusnak started the game on the bench but subbed in for Ruiz late in the first-half after Pablo picked up a knee injury. After giving a rather fired up interview at the half, Rusnak propelled the team to victory in the final minutes of the game and became the first player in MLS history to score both a game-tying and game-winning goal in stoppage-time in the same match.
RSL is 10-12-6 all-time against the Dynamo, 3-10-1 at Houston all-time, and 2-1-1 in the Petke era.
3. Saturday is opening day in league play but Houston has already played two matches in CONCACAF Champions League against Guatemalan champions CD Guastatoya. Houston won 3-1 on aggregate and will advance to the quarter-finals, which begin on March 5, along with MLS sides Atlanta United, NY Red Bulls, and Sporting KC.
The Dynamo missed out on the post-season in 2018 but they still took home some hardware, claiming the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in a 3-0 win over Philadelphia Union.
Mauro Manotas, who had two goals on Tuesday night, recently signed a long-term extension with the Dynamo, saying he wants to leave a legacy with the club. Manotas played 33 games for the Dynamo last season and scored 19 goals. Manotas currently sits on 48 career goals with Houston since joining in May 2015. Houston added some defensive power to the ranks this off-season with Kiki Struna and Maynor Figueroa, who seem to be building a strong partnership in the center of the defense.
Our coverage of Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo begins on Saturday, March 2 at 3 P.M. with Lauren Mason Beck and Jay Nolly on 101.5 The Eagle, kick-off at 4 P.M. with Spencer Warne and Jay Nolly.