Preview: D.C. United vs Real Salt Lake
After a slow start on the road at Houston, D.C. United will be looking to bounce back at home in its 2013 home opener at RFK Stadium, on Saturday at 7 p.m. EST (@DCUMatchday, listen on Romantica 900AM) against Real Salt Lake.
Both United and Real Salt Lake (RSL) opened season play last weekend, seeing the Black-and-Red head to Houston to take on the Dynamo in a 2-0 loss at BBVA Compass Stadium. And RSL traveled to San Jose, snatching two late goals in a 2-0 winner against the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners the Earthquakes.
United and RSL have not seen each other since last year’s regular-season matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 1, ending 1-0 in favor of RSL. The teams looked evenly matched throughout the game, as both teams took 14 shots (four on target), but it was Will Johnson’s – now playing with the Portland Timbers – 49th minute strike that proved to be the game-winner. The match would turn chippy shortly after Johnson broke the deadlock, seeing both teams have three players receive bookings, for a total of six yellow cards shown in the match.
Since RSL was introduced to Major League Soccer in 2005, Salt Lake has met the Black-and-Red a total of 15 times, with RSL (6-5-4) holding a lone win advantage over United (5-6-4) in the series. In the last three seasons, the Black-and-Red has only managed a 1-3-3 record in the past seven matches against Real Salt Lake. However, that win went down in the MLS record books on a magical night at RFK Stadium on Sept. 24, 2011, when United captain Dwayne De Rosario scored three consecutive goals in under nine minutes, grabbing the quickest hat-trick in MLS history. Unfortunately, De Rosario will miss out on the action this weekend, as he serves his second of a two game suspension for a red card incident in preseason.
This weekend’s home opener will be the first time D.C. United has played host to Real Salt Lake to open the season, but RSL is no stranger to playing in RFK Stadium. In fact, Real Salt Lake has never beaten United in RFK, going 0-4-3 in seven trips to the Nation’s Capital.
“There’s something about RFK – looking up at our fans jumping up and down, cheering us on for 90 minutes – it definitely gives us a spark, like a [12th] man,” said United central defender Dejan Jakovic.
Jakovic and company might have their hands full as United’s defensive line could be tested at home against what may well be a potent RSL attack in 2013. Real Salt Lake’s star forward Álvaro Saborío comes back after a 2012 campaign that saw him finish third in the League with 17 goals – five multi-goal games – and three assists in 31 appearances. Real Salt Lake also brings back Robbie Findley, who returns to Salt Lake this season after spending time with RSL in the 2006-2010 MLS seasons before joining English Championship side Nottingham Forrest for the past two years. And new additions of young players Joao Plata, 21, from Toronto FC, Olmes Garcia, 20, from Deportes Quindio (Colombia), and Devon Sandoval, 21 – drafted 29th overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of New Mexico – rounds out RSL’s line of attack for 2013.
United opens the 2013 season off the back of a 2012 season that saw them reel off a 16-game home-unbeaten streak (12-0-4) that has remained intact since March 30 last year. United Head Coach Ben Olsen knows how important it is to have that momentum carry over from 2012.
“We’re looking to protect our home field, it’s crucial in making [the] playoffs since road games are getting tougher … you [have] got to do the job at home,” said Olsen. “Now we’re looking again to reward fans when they come out.”
And United defender Dejan Jakovic looks to move past the poor result in Houston and put the first mark in the win column on Saturday in RFK Stadium.
“The guys are excited,” Jakovic said. “Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted in Houston, but the team looks good and we’re excited to play in front of our fans and hopefully get three points at home.”