Real Salt Lake will open their 16th MLS season on the road against Orlando City SC, here’s what you need to know ahead of the match:
1. The club has seen a lot of changes over the last couple of months so let’s recap everything:
- The interim tag was removed for head coach Freddy Juarez and general manager Elliot Fall. Tony Beltran, who retired in 2019, has joined the club as assistant general manager.
- RSL signed Maikel Chang, the all-time leader in assists in USL, from Real Monarchs.
- RSL Academy product Brooks Lennon was traded to Atlanta United for $300K in General Allocation Money.
- Everton Luiz, who was on loan for 2019, was signed from Società Polisportiva Ars et Labor on a permanent transfer.
- RSL signed defender Alvin Jones, who spent 2019 with USL side OKC energy.
- RSL Academy product Sebastian Saucedo, who was out of contract, announced his departure for Liga MX.
- Homegrown Donny Toia signed a new deal while Aaron Herrera, RSL’s 2019 Defender of the Year, signed a contract extension.
- Long-time RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando has retired and left the position open for the first time since his arrival in 2007. RSL signed MLS veteran Zac MacMath to compete with Andrew Putna (2019: 5 appearances, 12 saves, 6 goals against – RSL), and David Ochoa (2019 USL Championship Champion – Real Monarchs) for that spot.
- Defender Marcelo Silva, whose option had previously been declined, re-signed with RSL.
- Forward Milan Iloski signed a Homegrown Player contract after playing at UCLA for the last three years. Iloski had 23 goals and 6 assists in 46 appearances for the Bruins.
- Freddy Juarez confirmed that Joao Plata would not be returning to RSL after having his option declined at the end of 2019.
- Kyle Beckerman, who was out of contract at the end of 2019, re-signed with RSL. 2020 will be his 14th season with the club and 21st in the league.
- RSL signed left-back Ashtone Morgan from Toronto FC, where he played 9 seasons.
- Corey Baird signed a long-term contract extension with RSL.
- Kelyn Rowe, who was out of contract at the end of 2019, announced his return to New England Revolution.
- RSL signed Venezuelan winger Jeizon Ramirez from Tachira as a Young Designated Player. Ramirez will join the team upon receipt of his international transfer certificate and visa.
- Jefferson Savarino, who spent three seasons with RSL and had 8 goals and 5 assists in 28 appearances in 2019, was transferred to Brazilian club Atlético Mineiro for a “club-record transfer fee.”
- Real Salt Lake announced the signings of forwards Chris Garcia (Homegrown Player contract) and MLS-veteran Justin Meram.
- Fan-favorite Luke Mulholland was signed for a 7th season with RSL after his option was declined at the end of last season.
- And finally, after weeks of speculation, RSL announced that former Italian international Guiseppe Rossi has signed with the club.
2. Real Salt Lake played just three pre-season matches, the fewest in MLS, and went 0-2-1 while Saturday’s opponents OCSC scheduled eight but played seven and went 6-1-0. Everton Luiz was issued a red card in RSL’s season-ending semi-final loss against Seattle Sounders and will serve that suspension this weekend. Orlando City’s Nani was given a two-match suspension for aggressive behavior toward an official during their last match of the 2019 season and will be unavailable for Orlando’s first two matches of 2020. Kyle Beckerman picked up a knock in RSL’s final pre-season match but is not listed on the injury report while Sam Johnson, who had surgery during the off-season, has been ruled out. Orlando forward Dom Dwyer has been ruled out with a lower-body injury.
3. Saturday will be the second time these two teams face off for a season-opener in Orlando, the first took place in 2016 and resulted in a 2-2 draw. Real Salt Lake is 1-2-2 all-time against Orlando City and 0-1-1 on the road. In 2019, Real took all three points at Rio Tinto in the lone matchup of the year between the two sides. RSL is undefeated in their last ten season-openers while Orlando has only ever played home season-openers and have gone 1-0-4 in those matches.
4. Orlando City named Oscar Pareja head coach between seasons and added key pieces like Peruvian National Team goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and centerback Antonio Carlos from Palmeria in Brazil. Meanwhile midfielder Cristian Higuita, who made a club-high 100 appearances for OCSC, departed the club along with midfielder Sacha Kljestan and defender/defensive midfielder Lamine Sane.
Our coverage of Real Salt Lake at Orlando City SC begins on Saturday, February 29 at 3 PM on our sister-station 105.5 The Eagle, kick-off at 4. Join us live for pre-game and post-game at Craft by Proper (1053 east 2100 south, Salt Lake City).
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