Two of the hotter teams in MLS square off Saturday night when New York City FC travels to Sandy, Utah, to face Real Salt Lake.
NYCFC (9-3-8, 35 points) comes into the contest off back-to-back victories at Colorado (2-1) and against Sporting Kansas City (3-1) and is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind both second-place Atlanta United (11-9-3, 36) and third-place D.C United (9-6-9, 36) and four points behind first place Philadelphia (11-7-6, 39). However, the Cityzens have four games in hand cloudtorrent on both the Union and D.C. United and three games in hand on Atlanta.
Real Salt Lake (9-9-4, 31) enters the contest in eighth place in the Western Conference but has suffered just one loss in its past seven matches and is 5-0-1 in its past six contests at home.
NYCFC has never won at Rio Tinto Stadium but blanked Real Salt Lake 4-0 last season at Yankee Stadium.
“It will be a tough, tough game I'm sure, but we are ready,” NYCFC coach Dome Torrent said. “It's a good challenge for us to show the rest of the teams (and) our fans that we are able to win on the West Coast.”
Torrent said that All-Star midfielder Maxi Moralez, who is tied for the league lead in assists (13) to go along with six goals, will make the trip to Utah but hinted he is unlikely to see action after taking part in the MLS All-Star Game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla. Moralez has been bothered by a calf injury.
The good news for NYCFC is that Brazilian striker Heber, who has scored in five consecutive games and leads the team with nine goals in 13 games, is ready to go.
Real Salt Lake comes in off a scoreless draw at FC Dallas last Saturday and will be playing the second of three matches without head coach Mike Petke, who received a three-game suspension and $25,000 fine for “inappropriate language and confrontational behavior with match officials” during a 1-0 loss to Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup on July 24. Assistant coach Freddy Juarez coached the scoreless draw at FC Dallas.
“Freddy's been Mike's right-hand man this whole time, so he knows exactly Mike's tendencies,” RSL defender Aaron Herrera told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Now it gives Freddy a chance to sort of add his own flair to the team.”
–Field Level Media