Despite bringing back the majority of their players from 2013, Real Salt Lake is already facing injury concerns as they head into the season opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Three of RSL‘s main players in their playoff run last year have been ruled out for the game in Los Angeles at the StubHub Center.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy are looking at another run to a championship with their stars all in place. In the marquee MLS Western Conference matchup of the weekend, the odds are stacked against RSL.
Real Salt Lake enters the match knowing that Chris Schuler, Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval are out. RSL were hampered by more injuries last year than at any other time in their existence. Schuler has continued to struggle with a foot injury but scored two timely goals in the 2013 MLS playoffs. Schuler is on the right track to get back shortly.
However, Findley and Sandoval are still rehabbing injuries that occurred at the end of last season with Sandoval being closer to returning to the lineup.
Goals are set high for RSL as general manager Garth Lagerwey said the minimum goal is to make the playoffs for the seventh year in a row. Sebastian Velasquez said the team needs to come out and do it again making another run to the MLS Cup. New coach Jeff Cassar was a bit more guarded as he said that he just wants his team to be consistent.
This is the type of rhetoric that goes along with the RSL motto of “the team is the star” that is now stitched into the neck line of the new home jersey.
Meanwhile, L.A. recently signed striker Robbie Keane to a new contract and are ready to terrorize opposing teams’ defenses. Keane has recovered well after having both Achilles’ tendons repaired in the offseason. Landon Donovan is also poised to take over the record for most regular season MLS goals. Gyasi Zardes has staked his claim in the midfield and will bring a dynamic presence.
The Galaxy are 9-6-3 in their first game of the season and 11-5-2 in their first home game of the season. Since moving to the StubHub Center they are 3-2-1 in the first home game. The Galaxy also have revenge on their mind as RSL ousted L.A. from the playoffs last year. All signs points to the opener being a tough task for RSL. Injury concerns could already derail their season, but they will have a lot of time to get back on track.