Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
This glut of games on the road to start the season — five of our first seven, as we've been reminded — continues with a trip to face D.C. United in the nation's capital.
They'll be hopeful that they can continue the form showed in the second half of the match against San Jose, but with United looking to win in front of their fans, it won't be a particularly easy road.
Of course, you've got to factor in that Real Salt Lake's record at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (it's actually a stadium with a fascinating history, even if it's not soccer-specific — do read about it sometime, yeah?) is, well, not great. Not great to the tune of never having won there.
DC United, however, will be without leading guy Dwayne De Rosario, who is out through a suspension for a pre-season headbutt; they'll also be missing midfielder Lewis Neal, who trialled with Real Salt Lake in 2012, as well as not-Bill-Hamid goalkeeper Joe Willis, on-loan Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto, and 16-year-old forward Michael Seaton.
We aren't injury-free, either, obviously enough: Chris Wingert is most definitely still out, and while Nat Borchers and Javier Morales are inching closer and have even trained a bit, they're both still out. Ned Grabavoy remains absent dealing with family matters.
How we cope with those injuries seems pretty clear cut at this point, given that we did so against San Jose without major issue. Blooding these younger players early will only help through the season and in the years down the road — unless, of course, they fail and lose confidence, but we have an excellent coach in Jason Kreis for handling those matters.
Kreis could roll out a lineup that's much the same as last time — indeed, without injury concerns (hallelujah!) creeping in during the last match, and no reports of injuries from training, it seems likely that the same eleven players will kick things off. That sort of continuity in a side is important, especially with these younger players.
High pressure is the key here: Houston picked up a slew of interceptions high up the pitch against D.C., keeping the defense relatively protected. If we do play the same eleven, it's a lineup almost designed for said high pressure. Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley apply the highest pressure, and we've seen how Saborio can capitalize on that, while Luis Gil, Sebastian Velasquez, and Khari Stephenson apply rotating three-man pressure. We can see our midfield work in ways we really, truly missed last season, should it pay off.