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Real Salt Lake’s streak on the line vs. road-weary Nashville FC

Mar 12, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath (18) and forward Tate Schmitt (21) react after defeating the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake looks to continue an unbeaten start on Saturday night against a Nashville SC side battling through an extended, season-opening road trip before unveiling a new stadium.

Salt Lake (2-0-1, 7 points) continues to make a case as one of the league’s most underrated sides since manager Pablo Mastroeni took over as manager midway through last season.

Last weekend, they came from two goals down in a snowy visit to the 2021 Supporters’ Shield-leading New England Revolution to complete a stunning 3-2 win.

Defender Justen Glad leveled the game in the 88th minute before Tate Schmitt sealed all three points three minutes into second-half stoppage time, on a night RSL missed 2021 leading scorer Damir Kreilach to injury.

It was just the latest in a string of results that has seen the Claret and Cobalt build on a run to last year’s Western Conference final after sneaking into the final West playoff spot.

“It’s an incredible mentality from this group,” Glad said after last weekend’s comeback. “You saw it at the end of last year, and it’s carried on into this year, that never-say-die attitude.”

Nashville (1-1-1, 4 points) is playing its fourth of eight straight on the road before opening a new ground at the start of May.

Last weekend’s performance was the first time they showed a bit of road weariness in a 2-0 loss to Dallas.

Franco Jara converted a penalty drawn by Paul Arriola in the 85th minute and Alan Velasco added a sensational second two minutes later in his MLS debut.

Nashville has yet to get a goal from Hany Mukhtar, last year’s team scoring leader, and has just two overall.

But previous MLS teams typically have found that such long away stretches to open the year are about attrition more than creation, then building on a home-heavy schedule once the new stadium arrives.

“There was always going to be some tough encounters,” Nashville manager Gary Smith said this week. “There was always going to be some wrinkles to iron out. But what we’re most pleased about is the guys have stayed fit, they’ve stayed healthy. … Certainly not our best performance on the weekend. But we were in the game for a long, long period of time.”

–Field Level Media