Salt City FC
Salt City FC Extra Points
Real Salt Lake is back home for Game Day, with an important injury update

Real Salt Lake is back home for Game Day, with an important injury update

Real Salt Lake has traditionally been very good at home, while the Reds are winless in Sandy since 2007 — their first trip to the Wasatch Front.

Thank you for spending part of your GAME DAY with Salt City FC, the official broad-strokes newsletter and podcast about Utah soccer, including Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs and the grassroots and college game on the Wasatch Front.

As you can tell by the audio above, we’re going to try to reach out into the audio space a bit with this newsletter. Yes, the podcast still exists, and we’ll be back regularly with “The Coach", that is Mark Davis, who makes us the only Utah soccer podcast with a national championship. But we’re also going to give you some other things, like interviews and audio snippets through Salt City FC Extra Points, which will run through the newsletter and should (hopefully) be on Apple Podcasts (et al.) soon.

This week, enjoy RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni preview the club’s home match against Toronto FC, the return of Bob Bradley to the RioT for the first time since leaving LAFC, and an injury update on several players who you probably haven’t seen much in a little while.

We know that two podcast feeds is probably a lot to ask. But if you want to go subscribe on your platform of choice, we’d really appreciate it (or at least leave us a favorable rating and review to help #GrowTheGame). But the most important thing you can do to support independent soccer journalism like this newsletter is to subscribe on Substack, the Substack app, and in your inbox to get these posts delivered directly to you.

Now with all that being said, let’s talk about RSL’s return trip to Utah after picking up a few favorable results on the road.

Home-field advantage

In the middle of what would otherwise be a four-match road trip — and a massive point on the road in the Rocky Mountain Cup opener — in April, Real Salt Lake hosts Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night (6 p.m. MT, KMYU).

That doesn’t mean the club is putting more or less emphasis on a home match to take the maximum number of points from the Reds’ trip to the Wasatch Front. But don’t expect the club punching above its weight that sits second in the Western Conference to go easy on Bob Bradley and Company, either.

“Obviously, this is the most important game of our season because it’s the next one we play,” Mastroeni said. “Big-picture perspective, we’re in the midst of a lot of road games. But I don’t think we throw everything at it just because it’s a home game. That’s what’s great about this group … the way we approach the road games are to come away with something. This game will be no different.”

Home games are crucial in Major League Soccer, not just for RSL but for every team. There’s something special about playing in front of your home fans, where winning often usually means playoff appearances at the end of the season (almost regardless of what teams do on the road, to be honest). But Mastroeni’s club seems to have the right mentality (there’s that word again) after a 3-1-2 start to the season, an 11-point total that has them just two points behind West-leading LAFC in the all-too-early standings watch.

“It’s been a crazy start to the season,” Mastroeni added. “But it’s really about not thinking past any one game, and focusing on the next. I think the fact that we get to sleep in our own beds, come out to our own fans, and play a game we haven’t had in a while which is a home game will be exciting for the players.”

Toronto FC is in something of an opposite spot, namely being winless in Sandy since a 2-1 victory in their first visit to the Beehive State back in July 2007. Since then, Salt Lake has won eight of nine with one draw every time the Reds are in town.

“It's never an easy place to go," Toronto captain Michael Bradley told the Canadian Press. "Obviously you deal a little bit with the altitude. And it's a team that regardless of how they're doing, the fans come to the stadium and create a good atmosphere.

"It's a game we're looking forward to. We know that they're a team that has started the season pretty well and so we're excited to try to go and take our football and see if we can continue a good stretch for ourselves."

Saturday will be the return of former Real Salt Lake homegrown defender Carlos Salcedo to Rio Tinto Stadium, where he made 25 appearances in an RSL uniform before moving to Chivas de Guadalajara in 2015. The 28-year-old Mexican international is now back in MLS, and facing his fifth match with former LAFC coach Bob Bradley at the team north of the border.

“They have a very good blend of experienced players right down the spine, and some younger players on the wide areas that are dynamic and fast,” Mastroeni said. “But they’re really comfortable playing forward, and can press a lot like LAFC did in their heyday.

“The onus is on us to get the ball down, play it behind, and make them think about playing forward.”

Bobby Wood is on the verge of a recovery from an early-season hamstring injury, and should be available for head coach Pablo Mastroeni in Real Salt Lake’s return to Rio Tinto Stadium to face Toronto FC. (Photo via Real Salt Lake)

Welcome back, Bobby

The group is also getting healthier, with Nick Besler, Aaron Herrera and Bobby Wood featuring prominently in training Friday before the weekend. Wood, who has been plagued by injuries since joining RSL a year ago and most recently suffered a hamstring injury, seems in a particularly good place to see time Saturday against the Reds.

“Bobby’s been really bright,” Mastroeni said. “I think the time away, while it wasn’t good to not have him, it kind of charged his batteries. He had one full training session with us, and he was really bright, really dynamic, hungry.

“I look forward to seeing him tomorrow in the game, in some capacity.”

Besler could be a factor in the team’s center back struggles while the team is still down to just two: Marcelo Silva and 17-year-old Jaziel Orozco.

“He’s really the cover in that position at the moment,” Mastroeni said of Besler, who played 70 minutes with Real Monarchs in a 2-2 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps 2 last week. “If we go to a three-back, Aaron can play the right side and so can Bes. But Bes is a great, experienced, multi-functioning player to have with the group. We’re really glad to have him back.”

Injury report

OUT: Zack Farnsworth (right ankle), Justen Glad (hamstring), Bret Halsey (ankle), Erik Holt (left foot), Johan Kappelhof (left calf), Jonathan Menendez (adductor)

QUESTIONABLE: Nick Besler (nose), Aaron Herrera (left calf), Jasper Löffelsend (hamstring), David Ochoa (right quad), Bobby Wood (hamstring)

Salt City FC
Salt City FC Extra Points
Audio highlights from Salt City FC's official newsletter about Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs and soccer across Utah and the Wasatch Front, from MLS to USL to college soccer and the grassroots community.