Real Salt Lake should expect a tough match against D.C. United Saturday.
Ben Olsen’s side is coming off a late, and frustrating, loss down in Houston and will be hosting Salt Lake in its home opener. Both of those elements add emotion to an already threatening D.C. United squad that made the Eastern Conference Final last season.
D.C. has historically being a tough place for Salt Lake to play. Jason Kreis’ side lost 4-1 at RFK last season as Dwayne De Rosario scored the fastest hat trick in MLS History.
Fortunately for Salt Lake, the D.C. United superstar will be unavailable this week as he will serve the second half of his two-match suspension for head butting an opponent during pre-season.
Still, D.C. is a very good squad. It made the conference final in 2012 without De Rosario and might have made MLS Cup if not for a controversial non-call that the league’s own head of officiating said should have been a red card for Houston’s eventual goal-scorer, Andre Hainault.
Keys to the Match
Back Line Consistency – Salt Lake’s back four played badly in the first half of their first match together, but they were much improved in the second half. If the second half defense shows up, Salt Lake has the ability to get the win.
Keeping Possession – Many of Salt Lake’s first half problems in San Jose could have been minimized if the midfield had done a better job holding the ball and creating threats to the Earthquakes’ defense. If the midfield can do its job, the youth of the back line may not be an issue.
Closing Down Space – Salt Lake got in trouble last year in D.C. by giving attackers space near the box. That allowed De Rosario to score a couple magical goals and give Jason Kreis nightmares for a week. Even without De Rosario on the pitch, Salt Lake has to close down attackers when they get anywhere near the box.
- GK – Rimando
- DF – Mansally, Schuler, Watson-Siriboe, Beltran
- MF – Beckerman, Velasquez, Gil, Stephenson
- FW – Saborio, Findley
Ned Grabavoy – Ned missed the San Jose match due to a family emergency and was told to take as much time as he needed. As of this writing, his availability is unknown. If he plays, he could step in for Stephenson and be a difference-maker.
Joao Plata – He was widely praised for changing the complexion of Sunday’s match in San Jose and helping Salt Lake get the victory. Kreis conceded this week that the young Ecuadorian isn’t match fit and could barely handle the 25-30 minutes he played. If he can get himself fit and ready to play, the 5’2” striker can make a huge difference.