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DC United vs. RSL preview: RSL looks to continue road form against last-place United

Winning their last two road games, RSL hopes to take advantage of a struggling DC United side who are winless in seven.

MLS: D.C. United at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

After a three-game home stand, Real Salt Lake are taking their unbeaten streak on the road as they visit a struggling DC United for the first and only time this season.

RSL’s last visit to RFK Stadium was a wild goal-fest where they ended up losing 6-4 to the black-and-red. RSL got out to an early 2-0 lead, but DC was able to score three in a row to jump back on top. After trading goals back and forth to tie it up 4-4, DC put the icing on the cake with goals from Perry Kitchen and Nick DeLeon in the final 15 minutes to secure the home side the victory.

Unfortunately, that’s only a glimpse of how RSL’s luck has gone at RFK Stadium, as they’ve never won in Washington DC, with a record of 0-6-3 through nine games. To add insult to injury, they’ve been outscored on the road against DC 23-9.

Real Salt Lake

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 7-12-5 (26 points)
Table: 8th place (west), 18th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.08 (18th in MLS)
Most goals: Yura Movsisyan & Joao Plata (6)
Most assists: Albert Rusnak (7)

RSL is currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak, but on the flip side they’re also in the midst of a three-game winless skid, which includes three draws in a row at home.

Something about the broad side of a barn

During their game against Houston last week, RSL outshot the visitors overall 21-9. Unfortunately, Houston put one of their shots on frame, which is more than we can say for RSL, as they ended with a zero percent shooting accuracy.

While they’ve absolutely looked like a much better team when compared to the first half of the season, this problem with finishing has become a pattern.

Throughout their last three games, they’ve racked up a total of 61 shots, which in anyone’s right mind would be good enough to secure a few wins. Unfortunately, they’ve only put 13 of those on frame. When only 21% of their shots are hitting the target, it’s no surprise that they’ve only managed to score three goals throughout those games.

The time is now for road form

While RSL hasn’t been great on the road this season (3-8-1), their chance to turn that around continues this weekend. Two of those three road wins have been in their last two consecutive away games — commanding wins against the LA Galaxy and the Portland Timbers, beating out the home sides 6-2 and 4-1, respectively.

DC is winless in seven and struggling to find their identity while they try to salvage the rest of the season. RSL seems to have found their form, and while they can use a lot of work on finishing, they’ve shown massive improvements over the last six weeks. If they continue to play how they have been recently, there’s no reason that RSL shouldn’t take all three points at RFK.

Let’s add to that the mounting pressure of playoffs that loom ahead, and the incredibly tight race the Western Conference is right now. In order to qualify for the playoffs, RSL absolutely needs to start hauling in the points, and they’ll look to get back to that in Washington DC this weekend.

No news is good news

As far as injuries and absences go, there are no new players to report. Chad Barrett, Ricardo Velazco, Omar Holness, and Jordan Allen are all still out with long-term injuries, though it sounds like Barrett could be making his return within the next couple of months, just in time for a solid playoff push.

Matt Van Oekel and Demar Phillips are both still recovering from their respective injuries as well, so it’s likely we’ll see either Danny Acosta or Chris Wingert starting at left back. Wingert got the start last week, while Acosta has had plenty of nods before that.

Maund’s gone

In other news that made the rounds earlier this week, RSL veteran defender Aaron Maund has officially departed the club as he was sent to the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for a third-round 2018 MLS SuperDraft pick.

This news doesn’t come as such of a shock, as it’s been apparent that RSL would have to offload somebody, given their current depth at center-back. This leaves Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, David Horst, Chris Schuler, and Justin Schmidt as the current central defenders on the roster.

RSL travels to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps on September 9th.

DC United

MLS: Toronto FC at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 5-14-4 (19 points)
Table: 11th place (east), 22nd place (overall)
Points per game: 0.83 (22nd in MLS)
Most goals: Luciano Acosta (4)
Most assists: Lloyd Sam (5)

Sitting in last place in just about every statistic, DC United has had a rough go this season. 13 points out of the playoff picture with only 11 games left to play, it looks as though the rest of United’s season might be spent with players fighting to keep their jobs as they’ll likely start looking forward to how they can improve in the 2018 season.

Transfer window chaos

That’s not to say it absolutely couldn’t happen, though. We all remember Seattle’s fairy-tale run from 2016 that saw them go from the bottom of the barrel to MLS Cup Champions within a few months.

Ben Olson and company made some pretty sizable moves throughout the last couple weeks of the transfer window, highlighted by signing US Men’s National Team winger Paul Arriola from Club Tijuana. In addition, they dealt Lamar Neagle back to Seattle, while signing a pair of midfielders — Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber from German side Kaiserslautern, and Russell Canouse from Bundesliga club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Bolstering up their midfield and attack could be exactly what DC needs, and it remains to be seen how much these signings will help down the playoff stretch. Whether or not they all make their debut against RSL on Saturday, we’ll have to wait and see.

A fond farewell to RFK

As RSL makes their last-ever visit to RFK Stadium, DC United is looking forward to their brand new soccer-specific stadium. Audi Field is set to open in June of 2018, so while they still have a long time to soak in the memories at RFK, this will be Real Salt Lake’s last trip to the old faithful stadium that has served DC United since 1996.

That being said, it’s RSL’s last chance to get a win at RFK, so you can bet they’ll be looking to make that happen.

Missing players

With the influx of new players on their roster, it might not matter so much with the few players who are out with injury. Midfielder Rob Vincent is out with a knee injury, while midfielder Ian Harkes is sidelined with an ankle injury. On top of that, Patrick Nyarko is listed as questionable with a concussion.

They'll also be missing their assist-leader Lloyd Sam, who received a red card last week in their game against Toronto FC.


Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Glad, M Silva, Wingert; Sunny, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L Silva

DCU: Hamid; Franklin, Birnbaum, Opare, Kemp; Sarvas, Jeffrey; Buescher, Acosta, DeLeon; Brown

Absences

RSL
OUT: Chad Barrett (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Omar Holness (knee), Demar Phillips (hamstring), Matt Van Oekel (ankle), Ricardo Velazco (ankle)

DCU
OUT: Rob Vincent (knee), Ian Harkes (ankle), Lloyd Sam (red card)
QUESTIONABLE: Patrick Nyarko (concussion)

Match info

When: Saturday, August 12, 5:00PM MT

Where: RFK Stadium — Washington, DC

Weather: 74 degrees, partly cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700, MLS Live

Referee: Drew Fischer (2017: 30 yellow cards, 2 red cards, 2 penalties)