Holy crap. What a win from Real Salt Lake.
Missing star attackers Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino and Joao Plata, plus midfield anchors Kyle Beckerman and Sunday Stephen, the Clarent and Cobalt smashed New England 4-1. The guys stepping into the lineup — Luke Mulholland, Bofo Saucedo, Luis Silva, Nedum Onuoha — looked like All Stars for the first 30 minutes as RSL stormed ahead 3-0. And Corey Baird put in one of the performances of the season from an American attacker.
So RSL keep their playoff hopes in their hands. They are four points up on the LA Galaxy; RSL play one more game, the Galaxy have two more left. If RSL win on Sunday at Portland, they're in.
Head coach Mike Petke must feel amazing about his team’s performance, but it leaves him with the toughest decision of the season on Sunday. The 11 players from Thursday put in one of RSL’s best performances of the year. The front six put up four goals! But he had his three biggest stars and the club’s all-time legend sitting on the bench.
You can’t bench guys after they win 4-1, but you also can’t leave your four biggest names on the sideline for the make-or-break game of the year.
Tyrone Marshall breakdown tonight’s starting XI https://t.co/CZNkAWrzA6— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) October 19, 2018
Any isolated decision between Savarino/Plata/Rusnak/Beckerman and Silva/Mulholland/Saucedo/Nick Besler is a no brainer. Play the stars! But this isn’t an isolated decision. The second group are 1) coming off a fantastic performance, 2) feeling extremely confident and 3) unwounded from the mental damage of the 4-1 bashing from Portland two weeks ago.
Petke has already played his regular team against the Timbers, and they got crushed at home. Now they have to go to Portland for a rematch; does it make sense to play the same group?
Some RSL fans will read this and scream, “It was only the Revs!” And that’s true. Beating up on the Revs isn’t a huge feat. But the guys who played don’t see it like that; they don’t care who they smashed, they just feel good about doing it. And that sense of invincibility will carry over to Sunday.
Petke’s already shown he’s willing to make tough decisions; he sat Justen Glad for Thursday’s game, ending Glad’s streak of 50 straight starts. I suspect he will reinsert the starters for Sunday’s game. You gotta play the big dogs.
But also, did you see the last time they played Portland?