CONCACAF Champions League, Group A, Matchday 3
Real Salt Lake (1W-0D-1L, 3 points in CCL) vs. Toronto FC (1W-0D-1L, 3 points in CCL)
This is the first CCL match between these two sides. The two teams are even in MLS league play with a 3W-2D-3L record against each other.
These two teams will become quite familiar after playing each other three times over a 30-day stretch, with this encounter directly in the middle of that span.
After starting CCL play with victories, both RSL and TFC will look to rebound from a loss in their last match. Both will be looking to assert themselves and vault into the CCL lead in Group A, which currently features all four teams tied with three points after two matches.
Real Salt Lake
RSL are suffering through a spate of injuries. Out of the match will be Javier Morales (right quadriceps strain) and Fabian Espindola (left hamstring strain). They could be joined by Ned Grabavoy (illness) and striker Alvaro Saborio, who strained his right ankle at the end of practice on Tuesday.
RELATED: Saborio Injured?
Thus, RSL will have to dig deep into the bench once again, as they did with some success in a recent draw at Seattle in league play. Newly acquired striker Paulo Jr. might get his first start, replacing either Saborío or Espíndola up top. Replacing the dynamic skillset of Morales, however, will prove much more difficult, although it’s likely that Andy Williams will get the call in that role.
VIDEO: Dwayne De Rosario speaks of unity at TFC.
On the eve of this matchup comes the biggest shakeup in the fourth-year club's history. TFC released head coach Preki as well as director of soccer operations Mo Johnston. Assistant Nick Dasovic will fill the coaching spot on an interim basis, but it’s unknown what changes he may or may not bring to this match considering the short notice.
RELATED: Johnston, Preki Relieved Of Duties
How exactly TFC respond is an unknown, but Real Salt Lake's Will Johnson and Nat Borchers expect a strong and emotional performance from the Reds.
"It will be tough," said Johnson. "They'll come out really fired up."
“The response in the locker room is always good [in those situations]," added Borchers. "On teams that I’ve been on [where a coach has been fired], we’ve always had good results. It’s going to be interesting to see how they pull together, and it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Heroes & Villains
Dwayne De Rosario vs. Kyle Beckerman: For a team emotionally fired up after the departure of their coach, they’ll be looking to come out to set the tempo and establish their game earlier. De Rosario will likely be looked to as the leader by the guys in the locker room, and he’ll be relied on to help establish the tone of the match early on in this battle.
Beckerman has worked to regain his pre-injury form has had two good matches in a row. He'll play a key role from his holding midfield spot in this one as RSL try to withstand a potential onslaught early on.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm"
Saborío has scored four braces this season, including one in each of RSL’s first two CCL matches in Group A.