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RSL vs. DC United match preview

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An injury-laden RSL backline plays host to last-place DC United in hopes of bouncing back after two straight losses on the road.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering two straight road losses to Vancouver and Orlando, Real Salt Lake will return home and look to continue their winning ways within the confines of Rio Tinto Stadium as they host last-place DC United in their only match-up of the season.

Where they stand

It’s no secret that RSL (3-5-1, 10 points) has been struggling so far this season. Finding themselves in 9th place in the West and 16th place overall, they’re hoping to bounce back from those disappointing road results and notch another three points at home. While RSL has remained winless on the road (0-4-1), they’ve been surprisingly dominant at home, winning three of their four games so far, the lone loss coming in the form of the 5-1 blowout against LAFC.

This weekend should be no exception. While no team is an absolute “sure thing,” DC United (1-4-2, 5 points) is as close as it comes. Sitting in last place overall, DC is also one of the few teams to go winless on the road, matching RSL’s away record of 0-4-1. With just a single win to their name this season, they’re coming off a disheartening 3-2 loss against the Philadelphia Union last week.

Match history

There’s no shortage of drama between these two sides, including a wild 6-4 DC win just three years ago as well as RSL’s 1-0 Open Cup Final loss to DC at home back in 2013. The last time they met was a crazy ride as well, when RSL travelled to RFK Stadium for the final time before DC United abandoned it for their new digs at Audi Field, which is slated to open in July of this year.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at D.C. United
The storm that halted last season’s game for almost 24 hours also made the field at RFK Stadium look more like a pond.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

That was the game, as I’m sure we all remember, that had to be delayed in the first half due to a torrential downpour. The game picked back up in the 28th minute the next day, almost 24 hours later, and RSL came out looking much better than they did the previous day. Luis Silva bagged the game’s only goal in the 64th minute and RSL came back home with another three points in their pocket.

Personnel and lineup decisions

Real Salt Lake’s lineup has looked shaky at best over the past few weeks — the backline in particular. With Marcelo Silva missing the last four matches due to his groin injury, along with David Horst, Shawn Barry, Tony Beltran, and Demar Phillips all going down with injuries, Mike Petke has extremely limited choices for starting defenders. Last week against Orlando, there was only one “true” defender in the lineup in the form of Justen Glad, who started alongside Pablo Ruiz, Nick Besler, and Brooks Lennon. Of course Lennon, has been filling in at right back virtually all season long and doing a pretty great job, but Ruiz and Besler have needed some time to adjust to their new interim positions over the last few games.

It looks as though all those defenders will still be out this weekend with their respective injuries, so don’t be surprised to see the same back four as we’ve seen the last couple outings.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake
Alfredo Ortuño hasn’t made an appearance since his 16 minutes on April 11th in RSL’s 4-0 loss against NYCFC.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

While Corey Baird continues to impress as he grabbed his second goal of the season last week in Orlando, the question of Alfredo Ortuño’s playing status still remains. Only seeing 118 minutes through three appearances this season, one has to wonder why someone so high on the payroll isn’t getting any playing time. Sure, he has to compete with Luis Silva for the starting role at central attack, but you’d think we would have seen more action from the newcomer. Regardless of the reason, RSL has some kinks to work out with their attackers going forward.

Amidst rumors and reports of signing English Premier League legend Wayne Rooney, DC United are looking for answers in what’s turning out to be another bottom-of-the-barrel season. Sitting in dead last with five points through seven games played, DC coach Ben Olsen is struggling to get his team to roll on all cylinders.

It doesn’t help that they technically don’t have a home at the moment. RFK Stadium is done, but DC’s new stadium won’t be finished until July, so they’ve had to play most of their games on the road. The two games they’ve played at “home” so far came at the Maryland SoccerPlex and the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the latter of which gave them their lone win on the season in a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew. It doesn’t look any better for the Black-and-Red, as their next seven games in a row are all on the road as DC awaits the opening of the brand new Audi Field on July 14th.

Regardless, DC made a few decent moves this past offseason, acquiring midfielder Yamil Asad from Atlanta United, defender Joseph Mora from Costa Rican giants Saprissa, fullback Oniel Fisher from the Seattle Sounders, defender Frederic Brillant from NYCFC, and speedster Darren Mattocks from the Portland Timbers, who is currently United’s top scorer with three goals.

Olsen has to find a way to get through this extremely long road trip, in which they will have played 12 of their first 14 games on the road by the time Audi Field opens up. After that point, they’ll have to find a way to dominate at their new home, as they’ll have 15 of their final 20 games in front of their home crowd in hopes of salvaging a playoff spot in an incredibly tough Eastern Conference.


Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, Besler, Glad, Ruiz; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L Silva

DCU: Hamid; DeLeon, Brillant, Birnbaum, Mora; Durkin; Stieber, Acosta, Segura, Asad; Mullins

Absences

Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), David Horst (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), Shawn Barry (hamstring), Demar Phillips (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Marcelo Silva (groin), Taylor Peay (knee)

DC United
OUT: Taylor Kemp (groin), Junior Moreno (hamstring), Russell Canouse (knee)

Stat leaders

Real Salt Lake
GOALS: Joao Plata (3)
ASSISTS: Damir Kreilach (2)

DC United
GOALS: Darren Mattocks (3)
ASSISTS: Luciano Acosta (3)


Match details

When: Saturday, May 12, 2018; 7:00pm MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: Rain, 61 degrees

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV App, ESPN+ (streaming)

Radio: ESPN 700

Referee: Rubiel Vazquez