Real Salt Lake-Los Angeles FC Preview

National Sports

Bob Bradley insists there are still improvements to be made following his side’s back-to-back victories as they prepare to take on Real Salt Lake at Banc of California Stadium.

The Black and Gold beat RSL 1-0 earlier this month and followed that up with a 2-0 victory at Austin FC last time out, leaving them fifth in the Western Conference.

LAFC have yet to earn successive victories on home soil this campaign, but Bradley believes that is achievable if his attacking players can become even more clinical in front of goal.

“The mentality we’ve seen lately and the concentration in the two away games, with two shutouts, we’d like to build on,” he said.

“As I say every time, I still feel we’re a team that creates a lot and needs to raise the bar in terms of finishing and that final pass to score more goals.”

Real Salt Lake responded well to their previous loss to LAFC with a thumping 4-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps and can overtake Bradley’s side with victory on Saturday.

RSL have strengthened their squad with the addition of Toni Datkovic and the Croatian centre-back is eligible to make his debut this weekend.

Head coach Freddy Juarez had been keen to bolster his backline and is pleased to have found a player that ticks all of the boxes.

“We were definitely looking for a left centre-back when looking to add a centre-back and it was hard to find. We lucked out finding a left-footed centre-back, for sure,” he said.

“There are benefits like natural body positioning, it’s easier to connect him with a higher full-back. A natural leftie gives you that natural curl around the initial line of pressure.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Los Angeles FC – Jose Cifuentes

Cifuentes has scored in the Galaxy’s last two games, including the only goal in the narrow win over Real Salt Lake in the reverse meeting.Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi take much of the plaudits, but Ecuador international Cifuentes has been as influential with four direct goal involvements in five matches.

Real Salt Lake – Damir Kreilach

Croatian attacking midfielder Kreilach scored twice in the win over the Whitecaps and now has seven goals for the season, tied for the third-most in MLS.

He has scored those seven goals from a total xG (expected goals) of 3.1, with that +3.9 goals v expected goals tied with Orlando City’s Nani for the best xG overperformance in MLS in 2021.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Los Angeles FC have won six of the eight all-time meetings between the sides (L2, including play-offs), including the last two in a row.

– This will be the first meeting between the sides in Los Angeles since March 2019 as the last four meetings have all been played in Utah.

– LAFC won their last home match, a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas, but have not won consecutive games at Banc of California Stadium this season. LAFC have not kept consecutive clean sheets at home since May 2019 against Chicago and Dallas.

– Real Salt Lake picked up just their second win since starting the season with two straight victories, beating Vancouver in their last outing. That two-match winning streak to start this season are the only consecutive wins RSL have had since the start of the 2020 season.

– Carlos Vela has been involved in three goals in LAFC’s last two home matches, scoring once and assisting twice. Since joining MLS in 2018, Vela has been involved in 52 goals at Banc of California Stadium (29 goals, 23 assists, including play-offs), more than any other player at home in that time in the league.

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