When Real Salt Lake travels to the nation’s capital to play DC United at Audi Field on Saturday in an MLS interconference matchup, they will be hoping for another strong showing on the road.
The visitors are now 11th in the MLS Eastern Conference, outside of the postseason slots, while they are ninth in the MLS Western Conference despite having played more games than most of the teams around them.
Real Salt Lake drew 0-0 with New York City last week to extend their unbeaten streak in all competitions to three games, but Pablo Mastroeni would have viewed that result as two points lost as opposed to one won because his team outplayed theirs for a majority of the encounter.
Mastroeni’s team put a lot of effort into their midweek match, which they managed to hold off a quick-finishing LA Galaxy side 3-2 to advance for the US Open Cup semi-finals for just the second time in their history. However, fatigue may have had something to do with it.
Now that they’ve had a full week of recovery, they’ll be eager to continue where they left off at the beginning of the month, when they defeated Austin 2-1 on the road to win four of their previous five away contests while also drawing 1-1 with Minnesota United.
Real Salt Lake’s defense is unquestionably their biggest weakness. They have allowed the joint-most goals in the Western Conference this season (27), averaging just under two per game, and have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven league away games.
However, RSL has let up goals in 21 of their last 23 competitive road games across all competitions, and in 13 of those games, they have given up two goals or more.
The visitors did manage to hold this opponent to a scoreless tie in Utah last season, but they will need to work on their defensive shortcomings as they face a DC team that has been scoring rather regularly at home lately.
Unlike their opponents, DC United have lost four of their previous five away games in all competitions, with their most recent loss coming last week at the hands of Atlanta United by a score of 3-1.
Turning the page to the weekend 🦅
— D.C. United (@dcunited) June 15, 2023
However, Wayne Rooney’s team will be hoping to maintain their strong home form in this game as they gear up to take on high flying Cincinnati next week given that their next two games are slated to be played at Audi Field.
With three wins, three draws, and two losses at home, DC United has earned a total of 12 points out of a possible 24, but they haven’t lost in their last four games. They defeated Charlotte and LA Galaxy by three goals each while drawing with Nashville and, most recently, Montreal at the beginning of the month.
The hosts finished last in the Eastern Conference with just seven victories all season, but they already have six this year and are only five points behind Atlanta in fifth place.
Despite finishing last season with the wooden spoon, the DC United board decided to stick with Rooney and let him add winter reinforcements. This choice appears to be paying off so far as the team and performances, particularly at home, look to have regained some stability.
Zack Farnsworth, Axel Kei, Erik Holt, and Bryan Oviedo are all still at least a few weeks away from returning, so Mastroeni will have to cope with a few absentees, albeit none are brand new.
Both Anderson Julio and Jefferson Savarino were called up to serve their respective nations on international duty; they won’t be able to participate in this match until at least next week.
Rubio Rubin, who was taken off against New York City last week just after the hour mark, will once again lead the line, and Damir Kreilach will be competing for a spot in the starting 11 in Savarino’s absence.
Given that up to seven of his players are presently out injured, Rooney might have to make do with a lineup identical to the one that fell to Atlanta last week.
While Andy Najar, Theodore Ku-Dipietro, Nigel Robertha, and Martin Rodriguez are still sidelined for the foreseeable future, Luis Zamudio, Ruan, and Mohanad Jeahze have resumed training with the team. However, they will not be ready in time for this encounter.
Mateusz Klich will support Christian Benteke in the number 10 position up front for the Black and Reds. Christian Benteke has been the star for DC this season, scoring eight goals so far.
DC United possible starting lineup
Miller, Greene, Palsson, Birnbaum, Pines, Santos, Fountas, O’Brien, Durkin, Klich and Benteke.
Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup
MacMath, Hidalgo, Glad, Silva, Brody, Luna, Ruiz, Ojeda, Kreilach, Rubin and Musovski.
We predict: DC United 2-1 Real Salt Lake
DC United has performed admirably at home over the past month, and with Benteke up front, their assault has a much needed focal point that has been successful for them.
Last season’s match resulted in a scoreless draw, but DC has made significant progress since then. Although we anticipate another competitive game, we favor the home team to prevail.
How to watch
Every MLS game this season, including DC United vs. Real Salt Lake, can be watched live on Apple TV.