Well, the mystery coin flip determined that RSL would travel to DC for their final qualifying match for the US Open Cup, win this and you are in the tournament proper. Today the only mystery about this match, is who will play? For DC United, the temptation to blow this off and try to salvage their regular season has got to be tempting, but could they with their 2-8-0 record in MLS play and huge history in the US Open Cup put more focus on the tournament as something to hang their hat on this season?
For RSL, the same questions about who should play in the match exist, injuries will play a role in who gets minutes in the match as Wingert, Williams, and Nelson Gonzalez all picked up minor injuries last weekend and will likely not see action, of course Robbie Findley is in South Africa, and Kyle Beckerman has a boot on his leg. So that will limit the options for Jason Kreis, but there is also the fact that we have a Saturday/Wednesday lineup of MLS matches and will want to focus on keeping our current winning ways going in those matches. So when I asked which match should get more attention from RSL, the poll results were telling as 75% said to focus on the Saturday MLS match more. Will Jason listen to the fans, we know he wants to make it into the US Open Cup proper (it would be RSL first time since the reformatting of the tourney), we know that Jason wants to play every match to win. So what will happen?
So if you want to know what the DC United side of the thought pattern is, check out the post on Black and Red United.
My guess on lineups, my key matchups, and the wildcards after the jump:
So I have no magical insight to what RSL will do, but I know we will have to see a lineup with a mix of regulars and bench players, so here is my starting 11 for RSL:
Russell, McKenzie, Borchers, Beltran
Grabavoy, Alexandre, Warner, Johnson
This would leave Rimando, Olave, Schuler, Gil,Morales, Saborio and whoever is healthy enough to go on the bench. Remember that 4 subs are allowed in US Open Cup and if the match is tied we do 30 minutes of overtime followed by PK's.
It sounds like DC will be going with:
McTavish, Rice, James, Wallace
Khumalo, Morsink, King, Castillo
Espindola vs. DC Backline
So Fabi is still just coming back from his recent injury, he showed against KC why he is so dangerous. With Robbie gone, his speed and workrate he forces opposing defenses to adjust everything that they do. Even with their best defensive lineup, the DC United defense is the worst in MLS having allowed 20 goals in 10 matches. That matchup gets worse for United, when you consider that RSL's offense is the best in MLS with 21 goals scored in MLS action. Fabi will be looking for a way to get the focus of the RSL fans and staff back on him after the stellar month that Alvaro Saborio had in May, a big match in the Open Cup could just be his ticket.
DC's lack of offense vs. RSL's clean sheet inabilities
Listen I can't candy coat it, DC United have sucked so far this year, and the reality is that with just 7 goals scored in 20 matches their lack of an offense has to be the number one reason for their lack of results. KC and Seattle are the only other teams with single digit goals scored so far this year in MLS and both find themselves closer to the bottom than the top of the standings.
For RSL they have been dominating teams over the last month, but failed to get more than a single clean sheet and that came at the expense of expansion side Philly. Only twice this year has RSL been able to keep teams from scoring but that hasn't stopped them from having the second best goal differential with a +10. Can they find a way with their mix of starters and bench players to keep the struggling DC offense from scoring, I hope so.
The last of the MLS originals, the all time leading scorer in MLS history, oh and a guy who has done well against Real Salt Lake in the past. In fact he leads DC United in scoring against RSL with 5 goals and 2 assists, twice against RSL he has gotten a pair of goals, and given his limited minutes to this point of the season he may be out to prove that he still has what it takes.
Focus and Attention
For RSL it would be easy to come into the match today and not really be focused on it, they have just completed a perfect May in MLS, they are getting ready to go to the White House, they get to watch a teammate play in the World Cup, and they need to try to recover from some injuries. Listen even with a mix of players in the lineup, RSL is clearly the better team, and if they were to play their "B" team against all DC United starters you have to believe that the result would be different than the result in Charleston. If they pay attention to this match, and if winning it is still as important to the players, staff, and organization as it was at the start of the year, well then RSL should be in good shape.
DC United, they finally have enough players healthy to actually form a "B" team, but one has to wonder what approach they will take as they sit with a horrid 2-8-0 record in league play. No other team has lost more matches, no other team has allowed more goals, and no other team has scored fewer goals in MLS action. So do you play your top lineup and get them time to try and get their act together? Or do you play the backups and say, "you want to prove you have what it takes, well here is your chance"? The US Open Cup and DC United have a huge history, and you have to believe that in a season that has been a mess so far, that getting into the Cup proper is a top priority.
Listen you are talking about a team that despite injuries and call ups are firing on all cylinders right now, RSL may not be playing their best footy, but they are getting results. DC United isn't a good team this year, and I said it early on that they would live or die based on how Jamie Moreno was able to do this year. They have brought Luciano Emilio back in but he won't be enough to save them. RSL pull out a win 3-1.
OFF MY SOAPBOX