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Four questions with Lucas Muller of the Wasatch Sentinel



Photo by Mikey DeAngelis
The Major League Soccer drag continues on.
After a week off, the Philadelphia Union will return to action Saturday night to take on an unfamiliar foe, Real Salt Lake. The Union, tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference in points-per-game, will face a Salt Lake side that’s ranked fifth in the Western Conference in the same metric.
To get the inside scoop on RSL, we reached out to Lucas Muller of the Wasatch Sentinel.
Philadelphia Soccer Now: It’s been some time since the Union last played RSL — nearly five years. Can you give us an introduction to the club (i.e. manager, star players, etc.)? 
Lucas Muller: Real Salt Lake is in year two of a fairly significant rebuild. The days of Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are long behind the team now. They’ve gone younger, with players like Andres Gomez, Diego Luna, and Fidel Barajas all young attacking talent.

The team was purchased by Ryan Smith and David Biltzer in 2021 and they’ve started taking that rebuild seriously. They spent big to bring in Chicho Arango from Liga MX. Chicho, who had been an instrumental piece for LAFC, spent less than a year in Mexico before joining RSL and he’s currently leading the league in both goals and assists. He’s been a key part of the club’s success this season.

Head coach Pablo Mastroeni is in his third full season in the job. He was an assistant under Freddy Jaurez, and when Freddy left to join the Sounders as an assistant, Pablo was given the job on an interim basis. He took the team to the Western Conference final in a wild playoff run, and was rewarded by the new owners with dropping the interim tag. He’s grown a good deal as a manager in his three seasons here and the team is starting to build a clear identity.

PSN: Salt Lake’s in a similar position to the Union right now as they hover in a playoff slot in a tight top of the Western Conference. How have they fared against similarly-placed opponents?
LM: RSL have looked fairly good against teams of similar quality. They started their season with a loss in Miami, but drew with St. Louis in their next outing, but beat SLC about a month later. While the team did suffer a disappointing home loss to the Colorado Rapids, they have found success against teams like Vancouver Whitecaps, LAFC (in a full on blizzard), and most recently a 4-0 win in Chicago. Even the recent draws they’ve had (Minnesota and Columbus) felt like they should and could have done better.
PSN: It’s not often that a team gives up fewer goals than the Union, but Salt Lake’s only given up eight to Philadelphia’s nine. What’s gone right on defense?
LM: Historically, RSL have been a good defensive team, but that has not been the case the last few years. They added left back Alex Katranis from Greece in the offseason, and he’s looked quite good. Justen Glad is solid as ever, and Zac MacMath continues to be a decent goalkeeper for the team. RSL Academy product Bode Hidalgo has looked much better this season at right back.
The biggest improvement has been the midfield. In the 2023 MLS Draft, the team picked up Emeka Eneli. He initially played at outside back but has moved into the midfield where he’s impressed. In a season that was supposed to be the return of Pablo Ruiz (who suffered another season-ending injury, after having just returned from one), Eneli has paired with Braian Ojeda in central/defensive midfield and it has alleviated some of the pressure off the backline.
PSN: Will RSL have any notable absences? What are your starting lineup and score predictions?
LM: Speaking of the defense, Real Salt Lake has zero healthy center backs. The two starting CBs (Justen Glad and Brayan Vera) are listed as questionable on the injury report, and the backups (Marcelo Silva and Erik Holt) are listed as out. Last week against Chicago the team played a backline that saw outside backs Bryan Oviedo and Bode Hidalgo play as the two center backs. It worked, and they kept a clean sheet, but against a team that’s better than Chicago, RSL surely would have shipped 2 or 3 goals.

In addition to the defenders, Diego Luna is out this week. He subbed into RSL’s last game and scored a goal, but apparently picked up an injury in that game and won’t play this weekend.

We’re likely to see a very similar starting XI RSL played against Chicago. I expect MacMath will return to goal, a backline of Katranas, Oviedo, Hidalgo, and Brody, midfield of Eneli, Ojeda, with Matt Crooks at the 10, Baraias and Gomez on the wings, and Chicho at the 10.

I have to assume Chicho will be involved in a goal, so I’ll predict a 2-2 draw.

Joe is a junior at Penn State studying journalism and sports studies, among other things. He's covered the Union since 2017 and has written for Brotherly Game / Philadelphia Soccer Now since 2019. He seeks to answer life's greatest questions, such as, "How did I get here?" and "Where is that large automobile?" You can find Joe on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email (

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