Real Salt Lake makes the drive out of Philadelphia into suburban Chester for tonight’s match at PPL Park against the Philadelphia Union.
There’s nothing on the line, playoff-wise, for John Hackworth’s Union. But that won’t matter to the good supporters of PPL Park; the River End will rock, I’m sure, as the NBC Sports Network cameras show red lights ahead of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff.
RSL has plenty to be alarmed about right now, with way too many losses in MLS lately for Jason Kreis and Co. to feel good about.
Here are two points to ponder about it all:
The matter of Mr. Freddy Adu
The situation with Freddy Adu may be growing more tense by the match. There was a minor, public back-and-forth with coach John Hackworth earlier this week. Nothing we haven’t seen before,and it has been handled professionally. Still, this delicate situation seems to be evolving.
Hackworth has pledged patience with his young team. He seems to be getting through generally, and everyone from supporters to front office to the players seems to be on board with the long-term approach. And yet, there are signs that the manager’s patience may be fraying just a bit with Adu, who has been known to pout a bit when things aren’t going his way.
Super-sizing the pressure in all this is Michael Farfan (pictured).
America at large has never heard of Farfan. Probably quite a few soccer fans, either – and that’s a set that certainly knows of Adu.
But Farfan has become the playmaker of choice around PPL Park, rising steadily this year with bright performances, a few game-changing moments and even an appearance for the MLS All-Stars against Chelsea.
If Farfan keeps improving – he recently turned 24, so there’s no reason to assume that he can’t – there may not be a starting spot for two creative influences in a Union shirt. Right now, Farfan is in the lead.
As for RSL and a summer fade
Coming out of May, Jason Kreis’ team held a spiffy 10-3-2 mark and sat royally atop the entire league. It was surely a swell place to be.
Since then the men from Utah are a far less regal 3-7-1. Based on points per game they are third in the West. Based on their recent form, and on Los Angeles’ springy results lately, the Galaxy could easily lap RSL, leaving Kreis team in the far-less-favorable fourth spot. (Which means an additional playoff round.)
So, what gives?
It’s time to begin wondering if the team has simply gone a little stale. The first choice lineup around Rio Tinto still looks much like the MLS Cup winner in 2009. Nine men who helped RSL prevail over Los Angeles that night in Seattle are still RSL starters.
Is that two or three too many? Let’s talk about it again soon – like perhaps after tonight’s result.