Real Salt Lake is still reeling from Freddy Juarez’s departure, but FC Dallas boss Luchi Gonzalez is now relishing a reunion with his former teammate Pablo Mastroeni.
Juarez made a shock departure from RSL as he left for an assistant role with the Seattle Sounders. It left RSL – currently seventh in the Western Conference – without a coach on the back of a two-game losing streak.
Mastroeni will act as interim coach when RSL welcomes Dallas to Utah on Saturday, and the visiting coach is hoping to get one over on an old friend.
“It’ll be great to see him and congrats to him for getting the opportunity now with RSL,” said Gonzalez when asked about his old teammate, who he played with for the Colorado Rapids in 2005 and 2006. “It’s all with respect, but at the same time when that whistle blows it’s competition and that’s a strong RSL team that dropped points in Vancouver and we know they’ll be hungry to bounce back.”
Mastroeni is not new to head coaching duties. He took charge of the Rapids between 2014 and 2017 and has worked assistant coaching roles with the Houston Dynamo and RSL.
Dallas will be without top scorer Ricardo Pepi and key players Bryan Acosta, Szabolcs Schon and Freddy Vargas, who are all on international duty.
“Every club is going to be missing some key players and we’re no different. We’ve been anticipating it with the team and (are) ready to step up,” added Gonzalez.
RSL will be without Justin Meram, meanwhile, though the Iraq international is still following his club while out on duty with his country.
“You’ve seen in the past whenever RSL gets in the playoffs they’ve been pretty successful,” Meram said. “We just need to get this club back there.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Real Salt Lake – Anderson Julio
Julio came off the bench to score Real Salt Lake’s lone goal against Vancouver on Sunday. It was the third goal Julio has scored off the bench this season. Only Ramon Abila (four) has scored more goals as a substitute in 2021.
FC Dallas – Franco Jara
Jara has scored three goals this season. One of the 33-year-old’s strikes came against RSL in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
Four of the last six meetings between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas have ended in draws, including the last three in a row. Each team has recorded one win against the other in that span.
Real Salt Lake returns home after back-to-back away losses. RSL has won three straight home matches, including against the league’s other two Texas teams: Austin and Houston.
The three-match winning run is RSL’s longest at home since winning five straight at Rio Tinto Stadium in May-July 2019.
Dallas is unbeaten in four straight away matches (W2 D2) after losing eight straight on the road going back to last season’s playoffs. Dallas hasn’t avoided defeat in five straight away matches since May-August 2014 (W2 D4), a run that started with a draw at Real Salt Lake.
Dallas recorded its first five-goal road performance in MLS since 2014 in its 5-3 win over Austin on Friday. Dallas has posted five or more goals away from home six times. Only the Galaxy (10 times) have done so more often in MLS history.