HRB: What can you tell us about the status of Javier Morales? What will the RSL midfield look like if he remains sidelined with a concussion?
RSB: It has been pretty quiet on that front, but all indications are that Javier Morales is not quite ready for a return. The protocol for a player returning to play after a concussion takes a lot longer than I ever would have expected.
If in fact he is out for Saturday, I would expect Luis Gil to take over for him, which he has done on multiple occasions. Before the season started, Luis Gil was given the number 10 jersey, which I have been told is sort of a big deal symbolically. People have been saying for years now that Gil is the future of the club and seems the most likely to take over for Morales at that position long-term once Morales slows down. The more experience he gets now, the better.
Gil will likely be accompanied by at least Kyle Beckerman and Luke Mulholland, but the fourth player is hard to guess. If I had a gun to my head, I would say probably John Stertzer, who has seen more minutes this year.
HRB: The high-profile homecoming for Jason Kreis & co. has been well-publicized. How do you evaluate life-after-Kreis so far in Salt Lake, and should we expect any particular kind of tribute or acknowledgment of the cup-winning manager at the Rio Tinto?
RSB: I would not expect a tribute of any kind. It's hard to know how the crowd will react, but I think most will cheer him if given the opportunity. There is no denying that Kreis left his stamp on the club. I would say that if it were not for Jason Kreis and Garth Lagerwey, RSL definitely would not be where they are right now.
They have been one of the most consistent clubs in MLS now for six years. Life after Kreis has had its ups and downs, but there were plenty of peaks and valleys with Kreis here as well. There have been a lot of personnel changes since Kreis parted ways and went to New York in the front office and on the field, but the system and style of play has generally remained the same. RSL has struggled a bit to begin this season but I would argue that it is more due to injuries than to any sort of formation or tactical change.
HRB: Real Salt Lake supporters, especially at home games, have a reputation for being one of the most merciless and brash fan bases in MLS. Which words would you use to describe the flavor of RSL fandom, and what should the visitors expect to hear from the stands?
RSB: Diverse. RSL's crowd consists of a lot of different groups that probably break stereotypes of what comes to mind when people come to Utah.
It can also be a negative in that there are various supporters groups, probably six or seven (likely more), even within the confines of Rio Tinto. Visitors can expect fans to react to key moments in the game as well as a lot of razzing. RSL fandom has grown quickly since 2005 and it continues to grow in size and in understanding of the game. It is now one of the loudest, most passionate environments in MLS.
Great thanks to Randal for kicking it with us this week! Be sure to check out the "reverse fixture," in which our fearless leader, Raf Noboa y Rivera, tackles three NYCFC questions on RSL Soap Box. See you Saturday!