Everyone is talking about LAFC seeking payback and revenge for a playoff game lost at home last year. The last time RSL met LAFC at Banc of California Stadium, their 3-2 win in the knockout round of the 2018 playoffs, gave them a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals. LAFC had to lick their wounds and call it a day, their hopes stymied, their efforts left unrewarded. Yes, it’s a new year, LAFC is on a roll with no losses to their name so far, but real talk, there’s no way to avenge being ousted from at home when everything was at stake unless we’re at a similar stage in the season this year.
Meanwhile, international break already? Yes, it’s that time again. Both LAFC and Real Salt Lake, facing each other at Banc of California again tonight, will feel the discomfort of losing starters, so let’s review.
LAFC will be short five players. Christian Ramirez, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Mohamed El-Munir and Peter-Lee Vassell. Of the four, only Ramirez and Kaye are starters in the lineup. Ramirez’s likely replacement today is Adama Diomande. And we have now seen the blessing of Latif Blessing is in his flexibility and utility. He’s a good option for central midfield. Lee Nguyen, who has practiced this week after missing the trip to NYCFC, is back in the midfield fold as well. Steven Beitashour was also at full practice this week so they are at full strength in the backline.
On the other hand, Real Salt Lake is missing three key players for international duty: Corey Baird, Sam Johnson and Albert Runsák, and two for red card suspensions, Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva. Of those five, four were starters in the last three matches, and Johnson also played in all three. That’s a tall order to fill. It’s an easy-to-predict victory for LAFC, but wouldn’t it be something if RSL could pull off yet another against-the-odds win? Hard to root against the underdog that is reeling from their horrendous 5-0 loss to Wayne Rooney’s DC United at Audi Stadium. Overconfidence and laziness could hurt the home team. It’s simply too early in the season to call LAFC a shoe-in for the post-season. Game time: Saturday, March 23, 7:30 pm PT