Everybody remembers the last time.
It's been four months since Real Salt Lake last came to Banc of California Stadium. Which means, LAFC has been mulling over unfinished business in their minds for four long months.
The Black & Gold, obviously, haven't let that weigh on them too much to start the 2019 season though. In a lot of ways, they've used it to their advantage.
Through three matches to 2019, LAFC has seven points and is unbeaten. They're near the top of the league in goals scored, while they've held opponents to just over a goal per match. But with the opponent that knocked them out of last year's playoffs on the horizon, the match on Saturday offers more than just three points. It's a chance to exorcise some of the pain of last year's knockout.
Let's take a look at LAFC's showdown with RSL in the first Saturday night match of the season at Banc of California Stadium:
LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake, March 23 at 7:30pm PT
Where To Watch/Listen
TV: YouTube TV (coverage starts with LAFC Matchday at 5:30pm), KVMD (see below for the KVMD channel from your service provider)
Radio: ESPNLA 710, KFWB 980
Real Salt Lake took a beating last week in DC. By halftime, Mike Petke's team was two goals down and down a man. When the final whistle sounded, D.C. United had put five past a 9-man RSL team. To make matters worse, RSL will be without three players due to international duty: Albert Rusnak, Corey Baird, and Sam Johnson. Despite the loss last week, RSL has a respectable four points from three matches and comes into Banc of California Stadium as one of only two teams to handle LAFC a loss at home in 2018.
What The Players Are Saying
Latif Blessing on last year's loss in the playoffs: “It’s payback, payback time, you know? These guys just ended our dream. It’s payback time.”
Projected LAFC Starting XI
(4-3-3): Tyler Miller; Jordan Harvey, Eddie Segura, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour; Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing, Lee Nguyen; Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande, Carlos Vela.
What To Watch For
Home, Sweet Home: Yankee Stadium is no place for a football match. LAFC did its best to cope with the pitch conditions in NYC but the instances in which the Black & Gold could put its football on display were few and far between. Back at Banc of California Stadium, expect LAFC to get back in its groove and back to its brand of football. It's the first Saturday night home match for LAFC, so expect the crowd to be pumping out energy en masse to invigorate the players on the pitch. And look for LAFC to move the ball with purpose and combinations up and down the pitch.
Moving Pieces: LAFC will be without Christian Ramirez, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Mohamed El-Munir, and Peter-Lee Vassell this weekend. The quartet is away on international duty but LAFC has plenty of options as replacements. We've already see Latif Blessing filling in at both right back and in midfield and the return of Lee Nguyen from injury should also quell some worries. Up top, Adama Diomande went 45 minutes against NYCFC and looks a lock to start against RSL. There could be a few more changes with André Horta's return to health as well. We'll see how Bob Bradley shuffles his line-up for Saturday and if there might be another LAFC debut in the works.
To Attach Or Not To Attack: Mike Petke comes to LA with a team depleted by both international call-ups and suspensions. RSL will be without four of its starters from the past three matches: Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino, Marcelo Silva, and Corey Baird. Three of those players make up a bulk of RSL's attack. And with his side struggling to get results away from home, Petke may opt to have a team that's harder to break down then usual. Whether RSL arrives adamant on not conceding or will look to turn the match into a series of opportunities in transition, they'll be organized and ready to defend as a unit. LAFC will need to play quick and purposeful in attack but always will an eye on the spaces they leave as the move up the pitch.