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Signal Intel: RSL missing starting central defense, possibly Plata

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Short-handed Royals still looking for an identity after offseason youth movement

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake
David Horst is the only experienced, healthy center back on the RSL roster. In a TV version of this season, his part would be played by a very burly piece of wood.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

We exchanged questions with Matt Montgomery of SB Nation cousin-site RSL Soapbox to get the last-minute scoop before kickoff. My answers to Matt’s questions are here.

Hot Time: From what I'm hearing, the Royals will roll out their U12 defense against the Fire - is that right? Am I misreading these smoke signals? Tell us about the two guys who didn't travel and what their exclusion means for the RSL defense.

RSL Soapbox: It's rough out here, but it's not that rough. Really, it's just an early test of our depth, and while there are plenty of people panicking (I can neither confirm nor deny that I'm one of them), we have five rostered center backs. We're likely to see David Horst and Justin Schmidt at the center, and given one is a veteran (although last playing for a team that was pretty dismal last year — Houston Dynamo) and the other is a rookie, there's a strong sense that we won't win this one on defense alone. Justen Glad and Chris Schuler not traveling is a blow, certainly, but it's not the end of the world to give others a test early on.

HT: We've heard that Kyle Beckerman is relishing the challenge of facing the Dax/Juninho Fire midfield, but he surely can't do so alone - who will partner the ageless anchor man, and what's that player's game like?

RSLS: I mean, of course he is — we've faced these players plenty, so there's not a lot unknown there. Two MLS veterans who have been great? Alright. Joining Beckerman in marshaling the midfield will almost certainly be Stephen "Sunny" Sunday, who was one of RSL's best players in 2016. He's a little less the pass-master and a little more a ball-winner, and he can help provide an interesting balance with the captain. Expect him to really upset Chicago Fire fans at some point with a well-timed but heavy tackle.

HT: How would you characterize the way Salt Lake are playing under Cassar this year? Are they compact defensively? Do they press? How direct are they? Do they use the width of the field, or play through the middle?

RSLS: I wish I knew how to answer this question. I really do. But despite going through preseason and talking near-endlessly about the team, there's not a clear sense as to the style and how it actually plays out. I think we can instead talk about what they'd like to do, and that's definitely going to be a high-press, direct style that focuses on winning the ball high up the pitch and immediately turning that into attacking action. We'll see how that actually plays out.

HT: Predicted lineup?

RSLS: (4-2-3-1) - Rimando; Beltran, Schmidt, Horst, Wingert; Beckerman, Sunny; Allen, Rusnak, Velazco; Movsisyan.