RSL plays its first match of the season on the road at Minnesota, who have their home opener after losing the season opener last week at Seattle 4-0. Here are my three things to watch for in this game for both teams.
1. What impact do the new signings have?
Anderson Julio and Rubio Rubin are expected to make their debuts for their new club, and they both will likely be in the starting lineup with Rubin up top and Julio on the right wing. One of RSL's weaknesses last year was the lack of creativity and scoring touch in the final third of the pitch, so it will be interesting to see if Julio and Rubin are the answer. They both scored in a preseason match against Sacramento Republic, and Julio added another in a match against the Colorado Rapids. Look to see if their preseason forms continue against Minnesota.
2. What is the team's on-field identity?
One of the biggest complaints about RSL last year is that they never seemed to identify a consistent tactical approach. Every club tries to implement a consistent way to play the game, and it is anyone's guess as to what that will be for RSL. The first step towards success is a consistent identity, so be looking for what Coach Freddy Juarez tries to implement.
3. Do they have start of season rust?
One concern that many clubs have at the start of the season is rust, as players are experiencing high levels of competition for the first time in months. This problem is further compounded by the extra long off-season this year due to ongoing pandemic logistics. RSL was also the only recipient of a week one bye, so they are playing their first game while Minnesota is playing their second. Some MLS teams last week struggled to return to match form, while others did not. It will be interesting to see which category RSL falls under, especially since they are facing a club that does not have that same concern.
1. How do you come back from that?
The Loons got absolutely hammered by Seattle last week, giving up all of their goals in the second half in a 4-0 defeat. While Seattle is consistently one of the top teams in the league, they did suffer some big losses going into the season and Minnesota was expected to be able to compete with the best this year. It will be interesting to see the morale levels after such a disheartening performance to start the season, and if that game was a fluke or if the team has a bigger problem on its hands.
2. Where do the goals come from?
Minnesota lost their leading goal scorer from last season with the departure of Kevin Molino. While their supporting cast provides for plenty of goals, there has been no new additions to the starting lineup to replace Molino, as Robin Lod has moved over to his spot. The loss of a striker that scored every other game was apparent in the defeat last week, so Minnesota fans are looking for someone to step up and put goals in the back of the net.
3. What impact can the home fans bring?
No fans were allowed inside Allianz Field in 2020, but they will be back in a limited capacity for the home opener tonight. Home fans always changed the dynamic of a game, and Minnesota loves their fans as much as anyone. They play in a beautiful soccer-specific stadium, and the atmosphere will be electric even with the restricted attendance. We will see if the excitement can help the team overcome some of their other issues.
(Image courtesy of Real Salt Lake)