Nashville SC continue their eight match road stretch with a difficult trip to Real Salt Lake. The Coyotes drew RSL 0-0 in their only prior meeting, and a Gary Smith-coached side has yet to win in Salt Lake.
Ben Wright: Real Salt Lake have started the season off strong after their infamous playoff win in Seattle last season. What has been the key to their seven points from three games?
Matt Montgomery: Snow. And, uh, mostly snow.
While that’s sort of a joke, it’s also sort of true. Our matches against New England and Seattle this season featured quite a bit of snow, and while there’s nothing inherent about snow that leads to an RSL win (although Utah does reportedly have “the best snow on earth” — look it up!), I think it’s shown that we are at our best when the conditions are not.
I’d love to able to point at a piece on the roster and say “this addition made a huge difference,” but the best we’ve got there is Scott Caldwell, a midfielder who played for many years at New England. He’s not a bad player, and he’s fit in pretty well, but he’s not a spark. I really think the chaos has benefitted us, especially with Pablo Mastroeni very much a motivational coach and not particularly a tactical coach.
BW: Bobby Wood is a name many fans are familiar with, and he’s had a strong start to the year. How has he impacted this team and how has the rest of the squad supported him?
MM: You’re asking some hard questions here. This one doesn’t seem like it should be tough, but honestly, Bobby Wood in 2021 was almost entirely a non-factor, save one important playoff goal against Sporting KC. That makes his start to 2022 — one in which he hasn’t joined the throng of injured players, remarkably — all the more surprising.
I didn’t expect a strong start to the season from him, but he’s hit the ground running. I think we’re still discovering what his impact on the team will be, and I think measuring against the first 10 games of the season is a good mark for him.
BW: RSL weren’t really rated before the season, but have beaten both Seattle and New England. What’s the in-market perception of the team like, and do you think they’re better than the national narratives make them out to be?
MM: I’d say in-market perception is always going to be better than the national narrative, just by the nature of fandom, but I was definitely among the pessimistic types coming into the campaign. Are they better than their power rankings indicate? I’m actually not sure. We’ve yet to see a full-strength team, we have areas of the team that absolutely need strengthening, and we have a rough schedule to start the season.That said, we’ve won two of our first three, which is as good as I could have hoped for.
I’ll just say I’m confused about how good RSL is, and I’d love for them to be good and still strengthen. But whatever the case, we need strengthening.
BW: Just how memorable was that 3-2 win in New England?
MM: Extremely memorable. I was pessimistic heading into the game, as you might imagine. 75 minutes into the game, I was feeling pessimistic. I thought it wasn’t realistic to draw, much less win, at that point. But once that first goal was scored, momentum swung wildly, and it’s so rare to see wins like that in this league. Add snow, a rash of injuries, and a very angry Carles Gil, and that match will live in my memory for some time.
BW: Do you have a lineup/score prediction for Saturday?
MM: I try not to make scoreline predictions, because I’m really bad at them. 3-0 RSL, though. Also, here’s a predicted lineup. It could change slightly, with Maikel Chang and Sergio Cordova questionable through injury, but this is the best I’ve got:
(3-4-3): MacMath; Holt, Glad, Silva; Brody, Ruiz, Caldwell, Schmitt; Meram, Wood, Menendez