HERRIMAN — Fresh off snapping its lengthy losing streak, Real Salt Lake ventures back on the road again this weekend as it continues the difficult opening stretch of the 2019 campaign.
RSL travels to expansion FC Cincinnati this Friday (5:30 p.m., KMYU) followed by another road game at the L.A. Galaxy next weekend, which will conclude a stretch of 6 of 9 road games to start the season.
For a club that hasn’t been good away from home in many years, it was always going to be a tough couple months. Midfielder Albert Rusnak hopes this weekend gets RSL steered in the right direction.
“In this league it’s hard to keep that winning streak when you’re going on road, the road games are always more difficult," Rusnak said. "It will be a tough game just from the point that we’re going to be away, and our away record hasn’t been great. I feel like it takes that one game to break that bad luck on the road, and I think things could change around."
Nippert Stadium figures to be rocking again this weekend as FC Cincinnati has averaged 28,047 fans in its first three MLS home games. To pull out the result, RSL will need to figure out a way to get the job done on turf.
Having a weapon like speedy striker Sam Johnson could be a big asset on the turf. RSL won’t be completely reliant on building the attack through possession, and the option of playing the ball to Johnson in behind the defense could be a huge asset.
Johnson scored his first career MLS goal in last week’s 2-1 win over Orlando City, and after the game RSL coach Mike Petke said he would’ve liked to see his team try and play the ball in behind to Johnson even more than it did.
Real Salt Lake hasn’t featured a striker like Johnson since the Robbie Findley days, but Rusnak said there’s no time for everyone to slowly get acclimated to his playing style. After Friday’s game RSL will be a quarter of the way through the season and at the moment it sits below the playoff line.
“For the past few seasons we’ve played with a false nine, nobody really that wanted to run in behind. We became a dominant team that keeps the ball and combines and many, many passes and not really the killer passes behind,” Rusnak said. “Now we have to adapt to having a true nine.”
He said one of the biggest advantages to a true striker is the ability to alleviate pressure by clipping long balls over the top, knowing there’s a teammate who might be able to chase it down.
Regardless of how Real Salt Lake creates the chances, it needs to build on the confidence gained from snapping its four-game losing streak last week.Comment on this story
“Losing four in a row and then getting a result finally at home it’s huge," RSL defender Donny Toia said. "You want to take that momentum with you where you go whether it’s home or away."
Since a season-opening draw at Houston, RSL has lost three straight road games at D.C. United, Los Angeles FC and Seattle.
Cincinnati is 1-1-1 at home this season, earning a 1-1 draw against Kansas City in its most recent home match two weeks ago.
Even though FC Cincinnati is an expansion team, 12 players on its roster were with different MLS clubs last season and Rusnak said that familiarity should help RSL as it prepares for the match.