Nothing like a road trip against the best team in the league.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Real Salt Lake is sitting pretty in first place right now. Jason Kreis' team has been a perennial contender for a half-decade, winning the 2009 MLS Cup and coming pretty damn close to winning the CONCACAF Champion's League as well.
They lead the entire league with 33 points, becoming the first team to reach 10 wins in 2013.
Still, it's a good time to catch RSL.
Kreis will be without Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Tony Beltran, all of whom were called up for this month's Gold Cup.
The Union, looking for its first result at Rio Tinto, will play an RSL team missing its starting striker, right back, holding midfielder, and goalkeeper.
Real Salt Lake Attack
Let's fill in the gaps then.
No Saborio means that you'll see some sort of combination of Robbie Findley, Devon Sandoval, Joao Plata, and/or Olmes Garcia up top.
Real Salt Lake is coming off a 1-0 road win in Toronto in which Kreis ran a 4-3-3 with the latter three of those players up top. Rookie Sandoval ran the 'point' with Plata on the left and Garcia on the right. Findley came off the bench.
You'd think that veterans Ned Grabavoy or Khari Stephenson might be a good replacement for Beckerman. Attacking midfielder Javier Morales will certainly be available for this game, so it depends on whether Kreis decides to go 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 at home. Former Orlando City man Yordany Alvarez is a natural holding midfielder, and might be in line for a second straight start behind Morales.
Salt Lake will also see the return of Luis Gil, who recently came back to the United States from the U-20 World Cup in Turkey. He can play wide midfield and might figure into Wednesday night's plans. Sebastien Velazquez is another wide option, along with the aforementioned Grabavoy.
Salt Lake has outscored the last seven opponents at Rio Tinto by a 20 to 6 margin. That includes the U.S. Open Cup, in which RSL qualified for the semifinals.
Additionally, the defense only allowed one goal in league play in the entire month of June.
That bears repeating: the Salt Lake defense allowed just 1 goal in league play in the entire month of June.
The defense is pretty flexible this year, with different center backs playing alongside Nat Borchers. Aaron Maund got the start in Toronto, while Carlos Salcedo played in the 2-0 shutout against Seattle. Kreis has done a good job at replacing Jamison Olave, and dealing with recent injuries to starter Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
With Beltran gone, you might see left back Chris Wingert move over to right back. That would allow Lovel Palmer to start again on the left side. Abdoulie (formerly Kenny) Mansally would be the other option along the backline if Kreis decides to go with something else. It's really dependent upon the health of Schuler and Watson-Siriboe.
Last, but certainly not least, there's no Rimando in goal. Josh Saunders won back-to-back titles as Los Angeles' starter, so I'd say he's a capable backup in net.
Possible Starting XI: Saunders (GK), Palmer, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert, Alvarez, Morales, Gil, Grabavoy, Findley, Sandoval (4-4-2)
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com