OK, I am sorry for this being so late but when you lose power for several hours it really can screw up things for a couple days. After their 2-1 loss to United in the final US Open Cup qualifying match, Real Salt Lake will be looking to keep their 5 match winning streak in MLS action alive as they face off against a team that they are 4-4-2 against in all time MLS action.
It will be a big task as RSL has never won at RFK stadium, but with their 2-3-0 road record and their +1 goal differential on the road, they actually have better numbers than does DC United at home. 2-4-0 with a -5 goal differential at RFK are the boys in black and red, their overall 2-8-0 record is the worst in MLS, no team has allowed more goals than their 20, and no team has scored as few as their 7 goals. For United, injuries have impacted them all year and this match will be no different. Listed as out are: Brandon Barklage, Marc Burch, Bryan Namoff, Andrew Quinn, and Carey Talley, Dejan Jakovic is questionable, and Luciano Emilio is probable.
For Real Salt Lake, no team has scored more goals than the 21 they have put past opposing keepers, and their 11 goals allowed is tied for the 3rd fewest in MLS so far this year. All of that has given them a 6-3-1 record and 19 points in the standings, their road performance has been much improved this year and they will be looking for their 3rd win away from Rio Tinto Stadium. They will need to focus on the match at hand, and not start thinking about their matchup with the Galaxy on Wednesday. RSL are still dealing with some missing players, Robbie Findley played 90 minutes for the USMNT today in South Africa, Kyle Beckerman is still out, while Chris Wingert and Nelson Gonzalez are listed as doubtful, and Andy Williams is questionable.
Key Matchups, Wildcards, and my prediction after the jump:
Tradition vs. Change
When you see DC United take the pitch tonight, take a look at the back of the collar of their jerseys, you will see it there, and you see it through out their organization. It is the one word that is a blessing and a curse for DC United, "Tradition". That word not only means the 4 MLS Cups, the 4 Supporter Shields, the 2 US Open Cups, but it also means the expectation that the team is expected to win. "Change", the new MLS started in 2005, with Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake joining the league, and the league hasn't looked back. Real Salt Lake was the first of the "new" MLS teams to win MLS Cup but it wasn't just that, it was their home pitch Rio Tinto Stadium, that changed the level of expectations for MLS stadiums, it was the youngest coach in MLS history, it is the team first mentality that they play with in every match. For DC United, they will always be trying to live up to their past. For Real Salt Lake, it is about writing a new future.
Alvaro Saborio vs. DC's Defense
The MLS player of the month for May was Alvaro Saborio, and for good reason as his 4 goals and 3 assists helped his team to a 5-0-0 month. Now he will take his hot scoring streak to match up against the weakest defense in MLS, and he will pose a huge threat against a defense that often goes missing in matches. The DC United defense will be without Carey Talley who is out due to an injury and will likely replace him with Julius James, this leaves their backline without anyone over 6' 0" and you have to believe with the way Saborio can play in the air that it will be a clear advantage for him in this match. I look for Alvaro to take full advantage of a defense that clearly has issues.
I thought I would change it up a bit and pull this one from the MLS preview of the match:
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?
It is simply amazing to watch some people go crazy after a young player has a good week, I don't think I have seen this type of craze and hype around a young DC United player since, Freddy Adu. But after 334 minutes of playing time, Andy found the back of the net last week against Chivas USA and while it wasn't the game winner, it was his first MLS goal (one in which he was probably offside on). Then on Wednesday night, he came on late in the US Open Cup qualifier, and scored the game winner in the 107th minute of the match. Which of course lead one blogger to proclaim it as part of the "Legend of Andy Najar". Listen I love the story of a youth academy find, but two goals hardly makes a legend.
It was also funny to see this on twitter from duNord:
Question: How long does Andy Najar stay at DC United, and how big will the transfer fee be?
When he has more than one league goal and his team have more wins than losses, maybe just then some hype will be called for, but I guess for fans of a team that are 2-8-0, he is something to be excited about.
It is likely that we will see Pablo come on about the 65th minute or so, and when you understand that DC United have given up 7 goals in the final 15 minutes it could be a real opportunity for the 6'3" RSL striker to get his first goal of the 2010 campaign. It is hard to know which player for RSL will step up and score, as we have 5 players with multiple goals (Saborio -5, Morales-3, Espindola-3, Beckerman-2, Olave-2) and a total of 11 players have found the back of the net for RSL, and Pablo could easily find himself as the 12th.
I have watched as DC United play very well in matches, often being the better side but ending up on the wrong end of the result. Doesn't that sound familiar? While this year RSL has been the better team in almost every one of their matches, and with their lethal offensive attack and the weak defense of DC United, I have to pick this match to end up 3-1. I am going out on a limb here, goals for RSL will come from Saborio, Morales, and Campos, for DC United, I want to make them feel good, so their goal comes from young Andy Najar.
OFF MY SOAPBOX