Nashville SC travel to Real Salt Lake tonight for their first away match of 2021. To get a better look at RSL, we turned to Kreg Asay, the features editor at RSL Soapbox.
Ben Wright: RSL has been one of the surprises of the season. Most pundits (myself included) picked them to finish towards the bottom of the conference, and yet they’re on six points from three games? What’s been going right for them?
Kreg Asay: Hard to say what changed, everyone pegged RSL to finish at or near the bottom of the league for good reason, the ownership is still up in the air (I guess you’d say we’re technically owned by MLS right now), and with that we were severely limited in what players could be signed. But two of those signings have proven to be gold (at least after two games). Part of that I think stems from Minnesota and Kansas City underestimating RSL as an ‘easy game’, and also because no one really knew what to expect from Rubin and Juilo. San Jose was able to adapt probably after seeing tape from the first two games, and also because Julio was out with an injury.
BW: Rubio Rubin has been another surprise this season. He’s found a good run of form and has contributed a ton in the final third. How has he revitalized his career in Salt Lake?
KA: Rubin did fairly well under Donovan in the USL (San Diego Loyal) last year scoring 7 goals in 5 games, so I guess you could argue that it was Landon who did the heavy lifting for rebuilding Rubin’s form. RSL just took the chance that it would translate to MLS – which so far is paying off.
BW: Manager Freddy Juarez isn’t talked about with the best in the league, but he’s been pretty steady when much of the off-field events have been chaotic. What kind of manager is he? What tactical identity is he implementing?
KA: Among the fanbase Juarez is kind of controversial. Some like him, others don’t – but such is the case with most MLS teams. Previous years saw primarily the 4-3-3 lineup, and that does seem to be continuing, however what has changed is being more aggressive in winning the ball back in the opponent’s half. When RSL does play in their own half it’s usually safe passes until an opening comes up either through long ball or through the middle. Expect some serious counter-attack chances too.
BW: Do you have a lineup and score prediction for Saturday?
KA: RSL 2-1 NSC. Lineup I would predict is Ochoa, Hererra, Holt, Glad, Toia, Ruiz, Besler, Rusnak, Kreilach, Julio, Rubin.
Thanks to Kreg for his time and expertise. Make sure to follow RSL Soapbox (@RSLSoapbox) for the latest in Salt Lake soccer.