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What you need to know


So much today. Make sure to hydrate. You have a full MLS slate plus Copa América at the very least. Take a look at the schedule here.

All eyes on Salt Lake

No team has surprised us for the better like Real Salt Like. On average, they were picked to finish eighth in the West. They had a great, but not elite piece in Chicho Arango and not much else. They seemed to be losing more key players than they added in the offseason. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni still had a job, but had been asked to reshape his coaching staff entirely in the offseason. General manager Elliot Fall’s contract expired. A team that finished fifth in a mediocre conference and finished with a -2 goal differential on the year suddenly needed to deal with multiple changes to their internal structure. None of that is a formula for success.

Nineteen games later, they’re on top of the West with 37 points and goal differential of +18. They’re third in MLS on points per game. They’re fifth in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added (g+) differential. They’re fourth in expected points. Chicho Arango has 16 goals and 10 assists in 17 starts, and young players like Andrés Gómez and Diego Luna are putting together early career-best seasons. Mastroeni and his new assistants have adjusted the team’s tactics in a way that’s clearly set up the team to succeed. And they theoretically should have some room to add at least one more DP this summer. There aren’t many timelines where things are going better for RSL.

The Galaxy aren’t as much of a surprise, but are still surprising. Before the season started, we wrote in our season preview series they could finish anywhere between first and 14th in the West. There were definitely more timelines where they finished near the top of the conference than the bottom, but they’ve shown a penchant for imploding spectacularly since 2017. They’ve only made the playoffs twice since 2016 and last year saw them finish 13th in the West despite Riqui Puig doing his best to make the attack click. They were atrocious defensively in 2023 and didn’t do a ton to address that this offseason.

Well, the defense is a little better now, but the attack is much more than Puig. Dejan Joveljic has 11 goals and four assists, Gabriel Pec has five goals and seven assists and fellow DP winger Joseph Painstill has five goals and five assists. It’s a terrifying front three that’s produced the third-highest rate xG per game and the third-highest rate of goals per game. You never get a moment to let off the gas defensively against them. Even with Puig missing time recently due to injury, Diego Fagúndez has stepped up in his place and will be asked to do the same tonight in the only game with season-shaping potential.

Tonight, it’s all eyes on Salt Lake as both teams meet in what might be the first “six-pointer” of the season. RSL enter on 37 points. The Galaxy have 34. Both are within touching distance of the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings. Both still have a lot to prove.

Because both teams are, in their own way, surprises, there’s still just that little tiny bit of doubt hanging out in the back of most folks’ minds. Are RSL for real or are they being powered by an all-time heater from Arango? Are the Galaxy actually good or do their defensive struggles put a hard cap on the heights they can reach?

We won’t find out for sure either way tonight, but we will have a critical data point to look at. We’ll also have a little bit of separation at the top of the West or even more clutter or a result that gives LAFC a chance to gain ground on both teams. In the three-way horse race for the top-spot in the West, every meeting between two of the three from here on out could mean everything when all is said and done.

We get our first taste of that tonight. And each of these two surprise success stories get a chance to show who they are with the spotlight solely on them.

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Good luck out there. Take a leap forward.