SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake feel totally prepared to open the season against the MLS Cup winners, LA Galaxy, on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
In fact, they’re looking forward to it.
“You get to start out against the champions, so it’s a game that everybody’s going to be up for,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Thursday. “It presents us with a good opportunity to get off to a really good start and test ourselves against the team that’s really in mid-season form because they have to be.”
“Big games are always fun to play in, and games against LA are always big games,” added defender Chris Schuler, who will fill in at centerback for the injured Nat Borchers.
LA will presumably field a mixture of first line players and reserves due to the CONCACAF Champions League games against Toronto that sandwich this contest. But the RSL backline is preparing as if the Galaxy’s biggest star will be out there.
“From a defensive aspect, one of the things we’re looking forward to is fighting all those David Beckham balls over the top,” Schuler said. “He sprays quite a few long balls and so it’s something to prepare for and something to adjust to.”
On the flip side, RSL will have a mixed lineup of their own due to injuries.
In addition to Borchers, Will Johnson is out after having sports hernia surgery earlier this week. Unknown is the exact status of midfielder Javier Morales and forward Álvaro Saborío. Both traveled to LA with the squad, and the message earlier in the week was that they would likely come off the bench, meaning some younger, newer faces will be in critical roles.
“If we start out [playing with] some guys that are our new guys it’s only going to help us to get them some experience,” said Beckerman, “but I feel like whoever we’re going to put out there, we’re going to have a strong team.”
As far as guessing who the champs will put out on the field, RSL coach Jason Kreis isn’t worried about that.
“They’re the champions,” he said. “If they put out a complete second side from what we saw the other night, it’s still going to be a very good team, as we saw [at the Desert Diamond Cup in preseason]. They played their second team a lot of the minutes, and they ended up winning the tournament.”
Beckerman likes the challenge that facing such a quality team right out of the gate brings them.
“I think it’s a good healthy rivalry,” he explained. “They’re the champions and they’ve won the Supporters' Shield the past couple of years. So we’re trying to catch them.”