Red-hot RSL seeks first-ever win at RFK vs. upswinging DC
The historical record between these teams in league play is tied at 4 wins and 4 losses apiece, plus 2 draws.
What's at stake?
Statistically separated by 13 points in the standings and 23 points’ worth of goal differential, Real Salt Lake and D.C. United nonetheless have a bit in common this weekend. One team is keen to maintain the momentum of a dominant win streak, while the other hopes to take the next cautious step in building a run of their own after an awful beginning to the season. The visitors, and defending champs, look far better on paper but have never won in six total appearances at RFK.
It shouldn’t be too hard to remember. D.C. and Real met in a lengthy U.S. Open Cup play-in match on Wednesday, which United won 2-1 in extra time thanks to a fine solo effort from substitute Andy Najar in the 107th minute.
Defender Eddie Pope comprised the foundation upon which coach Bruce Arena built the United dynasty of the late 1990s, later joining Salt Lake to provide leadership for the expansion club in the final years of his career. He was dressed in a Real uniform when he played his 250th MLS match on September 12, 2007, at RFK Stadium, but that did not stop the fans of his former team from giving him a standing ovation in a pregame ceremony.
Heroes & Villains
Javi Morales and Andy Najar – The two best bets for pure entertainment on Saturday. After his magical, match-winning cameo on Wednesday night, Najar will be one of the most-anticipated elements of this weekend’s meeting – and he’s not even a sure bet to make the starting XI for D.C. The Honduran-born teenager will have to play even better to match the creativity and vision of Real’s Argentinean playmaker, however.
Nick Rimando against his former team – The nimble goalkeeper was shipped out of Washington three seasons ago, in part because he was seen as undersized and insufficiently commanding in the air. In the ensuing years he’s become a champion, a leader, and a penalty-saving superhero in Salt Lake while United’s GK position has seemingly been governed by a revolving-door policy. Will “Nicky” doom his old club to their ninth loss of the year?
Stat that makes you go "Hmm …"
1 month, 5 games played, 5 games won, 14 goals scored, 4 conceded – RSL was dominant in May league play, as these stats suggests. However, Western rivals and overall league-leaders LA Galaxy remain well ahead in the standings. Real may have to sustain this excellence to keep pace.
He said it
“There's a real positive attitude with the team right now after beating AC Milan and Chivas USA. After the game tonight we're feeling very good about ourselves, and hopefully we can keep it up." — Andy Najar hails the winds of change in the United locker room.
- Look to Tino and Pontius: Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius are United's most dynamic attackers and can create chances when they strike up combinations inside the attacking third of the field.
- A three-game overall win streak suggests this D.C. squad may possess more mettle than their early results indicated. More of the same will be a weekly requirement if the 2010 campaign is to be revived.
Real Salt Lake
- Score first: Always important in away matches, this would also take a psychological toll on a D.C. side still rebuilding its confidence after a horrid spring.
- Counterattack with pace: This has proven to be quite effective against the United defense this year and with Morales, Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, RSL has the weapons to do it.
OUT: MF Brandon Barklage (L ACL tear); DF Marc Burch (R foot surgery); DF Bryan Namoff (post-concussion symptoms); GK Andrew Quinn (R meniscus surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF Dejan Jakovic (R clavicle fracture); PROBABLE: FW Luciano Emilio (L hip flexor strain)
Real Salt Lake
OUT: MF Kyle Beckerman (L foot strain); MF Nelson Gonzalez (L hamstring strain); DF Chris Wingert (R hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: MF Andy Williams (L hamstring strain)