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What We Know, What We Don't Know and What We Think We Might Know: Real Salt Lake Edition

In which we figure out just how much we've learned about league leading RSL.

Mike Stobe

There's good news and bad news in store for the New York Red Bulls. The good news? They're playing at home this weekend. While New York's road form has been a cause for concern all season long, they've been strong at home. Their only losses at Red Bull Arena this season have been to second place Sporting Kansas City and a surging Vancouver Whitecaps. The bad news? They're playing at home against a team that is currently at the top of the table. Real Salt Lake is easily one of the most in form teams in MLS right now and is leading the league in points.

Here's what we know:

  • RSL is missing some important pieces.

As Jason already pointed out, what's good for the U.S. National Team and the New York Red Bulls isn't exactly good for Real Salt Lake. The table leaders have lost two of their most important players to the Gold Cup in goal keeper Nick Rimando and defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman. To make matters worse for Salt Lake, Josh Saunders, their back up keeper, is out for six months with an ACL tear. That leaves keeper responsibilities in the hands of 24 year-old Jeff Attinella.

  • East finally meets West.
RSL claimed to be heading into a rebuilding year over the past off season and made good on their claim by trading both forward Fabian Espindola and central defender Jamison Olave to New York in return for some allocation cash. The move prompted some to dub the Red Bulls "Salt Lake East." This Saturday's match will mark the first time the two former Salt Lakers will face their old team.

Here's what we don't know:

  • Will the midfield show up?
Not to sound like broken record here, but New York's inconsistency is staggering. The majority of that inconsistency is stemming from the midfield. Can we count on Dax McCarty to deliver a solid performance? Will Eric Alexander put in another "Ronaldoesque" display (thanks, Shep) or will he look more like....well, Eric Alexander? Is Jonny Steele running himself into the ground and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, will someone start feeding Henry the ball so he can quit dropping back?! The key to this match is in the midfield.

  • Will New York score? At all?
It's entirely possible that Salt Lake will come into Red Bull Arena and decide to park the bus. At this point in their season there are more important games against Western Conference rivals to look forward to, so why not play for a draw? It wouldn't be at all surprising to see them trot out a 4-2-3-1 formation and look to play the counter attack. With New York's current attacking form looking limp, we may be in store for a slogging nil-nil draw.

Here's what we think we might know:

  • It's time for someone other than Espindola to get the start.
Yes, it's the first time Espindola will be playing against his former team since he was traded in the off season. Great. That doesn't mean he deserves to be starting against them. The Argentine striker is frustrated and you can tell by the way he's playing. He is constantly opting to take defenders on the the dribble instead of going for the easy pass. This wouldn't be all that terrible if he was able to hold on to the ball. It's unfortunate that Mike Petke decided to throw out the Toronto FC game footage. If he had watched it, maybe he'd see what the rest of us see: an attack killer who runs hard, but not necessarily smart.