SANDY, Utah — You'd think that Real Salt Lake would be out for at least a bit of revenge when they host D.C. United on Saturday night.
Not just because D.C. Shocked RSL in Rio Tinto Stadium in the U.S. Open Cup Final, scoring an against-the-run-of-play goal and bunkering in, surviving shot after shot — including a pair that bounced off the crossbar — to claim the Cup.
“I think last year, that's all they had to play for,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told reporters.
D.C. was the worst team in MLS in 2013, winning just three league matches. One of those wins came over RSL — and had the Claret-and-Cobalt won that game, they would have won the Supporters' Shield and the regular season Western Conference championship, along with hosting MLS Cup.
“Well, when you put it that way,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told
MLSsoccer.com, “sure, we want to get some revenge. But they're a very different team this year.”
Four of the 11 starters in last year's U.S Open Cup final are no longer with United.
“They've done a lot of work defensively, bringing guys in to shore things up there,” Borchers said. “Their attack is a lot more dynamic. They've done a great job. They're dangerous.”
D.C. forward Fabian Espindola, a former RSL stalwart, is questionable. And midfielder Perry Kitchen is out because of yellow card accumulation.
RSL can relate to that — both its outside defenders, Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert, are in the same boat after hard-to-believe yellow cards for wasting time in last week's 1-0 win over Colorado.
RSL Coach Jeff Cassar has got to make some changes, but he's not tipping his hand.
“We're starting with 11,” Cassar said with a smile. “And, hopefully, we're going to finish with 11. That's key.”
His options are further limited because defender Aaron Maund was red carded on Saturday. But he's confident is team can pick up the slack.
“I feel like we're playing good soccer right now and everyone's contributing,” Cassar said. “So it's just moving forward. It's plug in and fill some holes.”
Fortunately for Salt Lake, Beckerman — who missed Wednesday's All-Star Game because of issues with his feet — has gotten some new orthotics and is expected to play. As is defender Chris Schuler, who was held out on Saturday because of lingering issues with his foot.
Midfielder Luis Gil, who was off with the U-23 team training in Bermuda this week, is also expected to contribute.
“He's feeling good,” Cassar said. “We have to make that decision whether he's going to start or come in and help us out. But either way, he probably going to play a major role.”
Win or lose, Beckerman said RSL is hoping for a very different game than the one United played in Rio Tinto Stadium in 2013.
“I think last year, they were limited to what they could do and realized — we're going to have to just defend and see if we can knick a goal. And that's what happened,” he said. “They're a better team this year and they've got confidence. So, hopefully, we'll play a straight-up game.”