Major League Soccer

Earthquakes-Real Salt Lake Preview

Freddy Juarez has put Real Salt Lake's perfect start to the campaign down to being forced to leave his comfort zone during the off-season.

Salt Lake welcome San Jose Earthquakes to Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday looking to build on a return of two wins from two so far.

It marks a big turnaround for the Claret and Cobalt after finishing 21st in the overall standings last season, ultimately leading to the departures of Juarez's assistant coaches.

And as tough as that decision was, the 43-year-old believes it has helped put the club back on the right track.

"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," he said. "I had to make a decision for the betterment of the club and the team and it was not easy. I had a lot of sleepless nights.

"It was not fun and it was not something I had ever contemplated on doing during the season.

"You have to look at yourself in the mirror after a season like we had and if you want to get better, if you really care about the club, you have to figure out ways to do it.

"That meant getting me out of my comfort zone and having to make tough decisions."

Salt Lake beat Minnesota United and Sporting KC in their first two games, while the Earthquakes followed up defeat to Houston Dynamo with wins over FC Dallas and DC United.

The Quakes have not won at Rio Tinto Stadium since 2013, recording three draws and three losses since then, and coach Matias Almeyda is expecting another tough contest on this latest visit.

"We're up against a tough opponent that has a good style of play, good players, and a great coach," he said.

"But we're going to go there and try to play our game and not theirs."

Real Salt Lake - Rubio Rubin

Rubin set up two goals in the 2-1 win against Minnesota and then scored twice in the 3-1 win against Sporting KC last time out - four goal involvements in two outings.

The American forward will be looking to build on that return against San Jose, who are without a clean sheet in six league games stretching back into last season.

San Jose Earthquakes - Cade Cowell

The 17-year-old has been in superb form for the Quakes in the early stages of the season, scoring twice and assisting three more in his first three appearances this term.

Cowell is the third-youngest player in MLS history to be named Player of the Week and, given the recent links with Barcelona, he looks destined to be a big star of the future.

- San Jose has won three of its last four games against Real Salt Lake, including eliminating RSL from the MLS is Back Tournament in the Round of 16.

- Real Salt Lake has opened a season with consecutive wins for the first time since 2012. RSL has not won its first three matches of a season since 2011 when it won four straight to start the campaign.

- San Jose has won eight of its last 13 regular-season matches dating back to last season (D1 L4). Its 25 points since the last week of September 2020 are second-most in MLS in that time, behind only New York City FC (28).

- Rubin is the third RSL player with four goal contributions in the first two weeks of a season after Joao Plata (two goals, two assists) in 2016 and Javier Morales, who did so in 2010 (three goals, one assist) and 2011 (two goals, two assists).

- Cowell has been involved in five goals in San Jose's first three matches this campaign, tied with Javier Hernandez (five goals) for the most goal involvements in MLS this season. Cowell and Rubin are the only two players with at least two goals and two assists this season.

Updated May 6, 2021

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