Real Salt Lake vs Los Angeles FC: Preview and Prediction

Los Angeles FC will look to make it back-to-back victories at the start of the 2023/24 MLS campaign when they travel to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Real Salt Lake made it to the playoffs in both of Pablo Mastroeni’s seasons as manager, and they will be looking to advance past the first round at the end of the season, meaning the game against Los Angeles FC is crusial.

The home side will have to get their act together before they can dream of winning the MLS Cup for the second time in club history, especially after a dismal start to the season. After being defeated 2-0 by Inter Miami in their opening game of the campaign, Mastroeni’s side were held away to St. Louis City last weekend as Cristian Arango’s opener was cancelled by Samuel Adeniran’s 74th-minute strike to deny the visitors all three points.

The Black and Gold, meanwhile, kicked off their 2024 season in winning fashion, a 2-1 triumph over the Seattle Sounders at BMO Stadium. Tim Tillman and Mateusz Bogusz fired the 2022 MLS Cup champions to victory despite a late penalty strike from Seattle’s new recruit, Pedro de la Vega. LA have reached the MLS Cup final in each of the last two seasons and will be expected to go close once again this time around.

Team News & Tactics

Real Salt Lake

Jose Bonilla is ruled out for Real Salt Lake with a long-term knee injury, with the midfielder not expected to return to action until early April. Former Middlesbrough midfielder Matt Crooks recovered from a muscle problem to make his debut from the bench last time out and is in contention to start here.

New signing Alexandro Katranis, who has yet to make his debut for Real Salt Lake following his move from Piast Gliwice, missed the team’s first two games of the season due to personal reasons, but he may be available for selection once again.

Andrew Brody is set to hold down the left-back position for the foreseeable future for RSL. Pablo Mastroeni’s men made one of the most interesting acquisitions of the off-season with the signing of 17-year-old Fidel Barajas, who scored five goals and had 11 assists last season in his first full year with the Charleston Battery of the USL Championship.

The left-footed attacker will have contend with cameos off the bench for now, owing to the quality of stars like Chicho Arango and Diego Luna.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): MacMath; Hidalgo, Glad, Vera, Brody; Eneli, Ojeda; Gomez, Ruiz, Luna; Arango

Los Angeles FC

The only injury LAFC boss Steve Cherundolo has to worry about is centre-back Lorenzo Dellavalle, who was promoted from LAFC II this off-season. Otherwise, Cherundolo appears to have a full roster at his disposal, and he may see little reason to change a winning team after beating Seattle in their opening game.

Hugo Lloris and Omar Campos marked their MLS debuts with a win. The former Tottenham Hotspur skipper made six saves and was unable to keep a clean sheet, while Campos recorded one assist.

Both are set to keep their spots in the starting lineup. In attack, Bogusz should lead the line once again, while goal-scoring wingers Denis Bouanga and Cristian Olivera will look to bag their first goals of the campaign.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Hollingshead, Murillo, Long, Campos; Tillman, Ilie, Atuesta; Olivera, Bogusz, Bouanga

Key Stats

  • There have been 16 previous meetings between the sides, with LAFC winning 13 times and Real Salt Lake losing just three. This fixture has never produced a draw.
  • After losing eight games in a row, Real Salt Lake beat LAFC in their last encounter, sealing a 1-0 victory in October 2023.
  • LAFC are unbeaten in their last four MLS games from last season, whereas Salt Lake have won just once from their last five.
  • Salt Lake have failed to win their opening two matches.

Player to Watch

Denis Bouanga

Embed from Getty Images

After winning the 2022 MLS Cup and following it up with a campaign that saw him land the 2023 MLS Golden Boot and lead the Black and Gold to yet another Cup win, Denis Bouanga’s stock is among the highest across the MLS.

Bouanga not only scored 20 league goals to lead MLS, he tallied 38 across all competitions to tie the all-competitions single-season record set by LAFC teammate Carlos Vela back in 2019. He also proved himself exceptionally consistent while performing at that elite level, making 48 competitive appearances (44 starts). And he will be chomping at the bit to open his account for the season here.


Real Salt Lake 1-2 Los Angeles FC

While we expect Real Salt Lake to put up a fight in front of their home supporters and will huff and puff, The Hard Tackle are backing LAFC to come away with all three points thanks to their deadly counter-attack. Expect a keenly-contested affair which will end with a narrow victory for the away side.

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