Preview: RSL poised to challenge for Shield with result vs. DC United

D.C. United vs. Real Salt Lake

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RFK MEMORIAL STADIUM, Washington, D.C.
7:30 p.m. ET (KMYU-2.2)
September 24, 2011 (WEEK 28; MLS Game 269)

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Two teams with their playoff futures in their control meet Saturday night at RFK Stadium when D.C. United entertain Real Salt Lake. United are currently a point out of 10th place overall and the final wild card spot, after their midweek 2-2 draw with Chivas USA, but have games in hand over the remainder of the league. Real are, at minimum, just a point away from securing a postseason berth after their fifth win in a row, a 3-1 midweek victory at New York.

REFEREE: Edvin Jurisevic. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Adam Garner; 4th: Andrew Chapin
MLS Career: 37 games; FC/gm: 21.9; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 4; pens: 5

INJURY REPORT: D.C. UNITED — OUT: MF Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear); MF Chris Pontius (R tibia fracture); DF Jed Zayner (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Steve Cronin (R shoulder strain); DF Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain); MF Santino Quaranta (L quadriceps spasm); PROBABLE: GK Bill Hamid (R hamstring strain) ... REAL SALT LAKE — OUT: MF Nelson González (R foot fracture); MF Javier Morales (L ankle fracture dislocation); GK Kyle Reynish (R ankle sprain); DF Tony Beltran (L groin adductor tear); DOUBTFUL: FW Chris Agorsor (R hand fracture); QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Wingert (L wrist fracture); PROBABLE: FW ¡lvaro Sabor"o (R knee effusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DC: Austin da Luz, Brandon McDonald
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DC: Charlie Davies, Dwayne De Rosario, Ethan White ... RSL: Jean Alexandre, Fabian Espindola, Robbie Russell, Chris Wingert

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (13 meetings): United 4 wins, 19 goals ... Real 5 wins, 19 goals ... Ties 4
  • AT RFK STADIUM (6 meetings): United 3 wins, 12 goals ... Real 0 wins, 4 goals ... Ties 3
  • In the first meeting this season, RSL's Fabian Espindola and D.C.'s Charlie Davies each scored penalty kicks as the teams ended in a 1-1 draw on June 18 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Since a 3-1 win against RSL in their first trip to Utah, United had lost on five consecutive trips to the Wasatch Front since 2006, outscored 13-3, before the draw earlier this year.
  • By contrast, Real have never won at RFK Stadium, with four losses in seven trips in all competitions all-time. But the last two meetings on East Capitol Street have ended in scoreless draws.
  • Coaches record: Jason Kreis v DC: P9 W4 L2 D3 ... Ben Olsen vs. RSL: P1 W0 L0 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • 6/18: RSL 1, DC 1 (Espindola 38 pen — Davies 85 pen)
  • RSL took the lead in the 38th minute when United's Clyde Simms was adjusted to have handled the ball in the box. Fabián Esp"ndola stepped up to the spot and sent goalkeeper Bill Hamid the other way.
  • But United found the leveler five minutes from time when Chris Wingert looked to trip up Charlie Davies in the area and referee Terry Vaughn pointed to the spot. The U.S. striker converted the ensuing penalty.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-1-3-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert (Robbie Russell 85) - Kyle Beckerman - Andy Williams, Collen Warner (Will Johnson 66), Ned Grabavoy - Jean Alexandre, Fabian Espindola (Artur Aghasyan 83).
  • D.C. UNITED (4-4-2): Bill Hamid - Jed Zayner, Ethan White, Perry Kitchen, Daniel Woolard -  Andy Najar, Clyde Simms (Dax McCarty 46), Stephen King (Fred 78), Chris Pontius - Blake Brettschneider, Josh Wolff (Charlie Davies 62).

D.C. UNITED

D.C. United kicked off two crucial home games by being pulled back into a 2-2 draw by Chivas USA on Wednesday evening at RFK Stadium. United have 35 points from 27 games on the year, sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • United broke through for the opener in the 39th minute. Andy Najar's curled free kick from just outside the area on the right found the head of Dwayne De Rosario, who glanced it past a sprawling Dan Kennedy in the Chivas goal.
  • Two minutes after the second-half restart, United doubled their advantage. De Rosario deflected a Santino Quaranta corner kick on goal, and while Kennedy got a hand to it, D.C. defender Ethan White was on hand to tap the ball home.
  • Chivas pulled a goal back in the 57th minute. Spinning away from a defender on the right side of the area, Nick LaBrocca lofted in a beautiful cross that Juan Pablo ¡ngel headed home from the center of the box.
  • Chivas then leveled terms in the 70th minute. A cross from Ante Jazic found ¡ngel in the box, and when neither White nor Brandon McDonald could clear the ball away, ¡ngel turned and finished past a lunging Bill Hamid in the United goal.
  • United had a glorious chance to win, earning a penalty in stoppage time when ¡ngel made contact with De Rosario in the box. De Rosario took his own penalty, but Kennedy guessed correctly, diving to his left to make the stop and preserve the draw.
  • United coach Ben Olsen made three changes to the team that fell 3-0 to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field. Bill Hamid returned to goal in place of Joe Willis, Santino Quaranta came back into the midfield for Austin da Luz, and Josh Wolff returned to strike pair instead of Joseph Ngwenya.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-1-3-2): Bill Hamid - Perry Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard - Clyde Simms - Andy Najar, Dwayne De Rosario, Santino Quaranta - Charlie Davies (Austin da Luz  68), Josh Wolff (Stephen King 59).

TEAM NEWS

  • While D.C. United are now a point out of 10th place overall and the final wild card, with 27 games played, they have 1-3 games in hand on the remainder of the league. Trips to Philadelphia and Columbus, and a home match against Sporting KC — all ahead of United in the Eastern Conference — are still ahead.
  • "We played like boys. And not just the second half, I thought the first half we played soft, naive. There's a mentality to this game that right now some of our guys don't have," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "We have talent — flashes — but it's still not good enough, you need to have it for 90 minutes. Part of it is youth, and part of it is complacency. We are up 2-0 and now we think the game is easy; we get half the tackle, we don't have to win second balls, and we roll the dice and hope we get lucky."
  • With a home record of 5-5-4, D.C. United are just one of four teams with a record of .500 or below on their home ground.
  • "It's absolutely going to stop — it has to stop, or we will not make the playoffs, it's that simple," Olsen said. "The way we fade in and out of games as a group, the way we take breaks, is the reason why we haven't had two games in a row."
  • Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a season-high six saves, on a season-high eight shots faced, against Chivas.
  • "I haven't seen consistent, high-level performances game after game. It's there — the talent is there, but talent is not enough. I have been on terrible teams and won games because we had guys that would do anything — anything — to win a game. And that means if they are tired, if they lose the ball, they don't stop. If you have to run 40 yards as hard as you can to tackle or to help a teammate, you do it. And that part is missing, and it has got to stop," Olsen said.
  • United still have yet to win back-to-back games this season. "We can start by winning two games in a row, and finishing games off. When we are 2-0, make it 3-0. Finish the game off. Do all the little things that you need to do at 2-0 to kill the game," Olsen said. "Too many of our guys right now don't get that. It's a very disappointing tie tonight. The guys are disappointed. We got to look at ourselves in the mirror after this one, because it was an unacceptable performance from the start to the end."
  • Rookie Ethan White became the third first-year player to score his first professional goal this season.
  • "I grew up watching D.C. United, and stepping up and scoring during my rookie year — I wasn't expecting that. It's unbelievable, and I don't think I've ever been happier than celebrating that goal," White said. "But walking off the field it's disappointing, because we could have won that game."
  • The goal scored by Dwayne De Rosario was the first scored by a header all season for United. No team in Major League Soccer history has gone an entire season with scoring on a header. A year ago, United scored just twice on headers, which is tied for the fewest in a season (set on multiple occasions).

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake strolled to a fifth win on the trot, scoring early and often for a 3-1 win against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena. RSL moved into a tie for second place in the Western Conference, with 51 points from 28 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Real were in front after just seven minutes, when Alvaro Sabor"o rose perfectly over Teemu Tainio to tuck in a header from an Andy Williams corner kick from the right just inside the near post.
  • Then four minutes later, RSL made it 2-0 when Tim Ream's soft pass in the direction of goalkeeper Frank Rost was intercepted by Fabian Esp"ndola, who simply rounded Rost and fired into an open net.
  • RSL made it 3-0 in the 21st minute. From near the midfield line, Collen Warner threaded a precise pass between a pair of New York defenders to a sprinting Esp"ndola, who flicked a left-footed shot past Rost from the top of the area.
  • The Red Bulls pulled a goal in the 69th minute in spectacular fashion, when Joel Lindpere met a Rafa Márquez's free kick with a flying scissor-kick from inside the area that sailed into the top of the net.
  • RSL coach Jason Kreis made two changes to the side that defeated Sporting Kansas City 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Yordany Alvarez made his first MLS start, in place of the suspended Kyle Beckerman, and Collen Warner came into the side for Luis Gil.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler - Andy Williams (Arturo Alvarez 68), Yordany Alvarez, Will Johnson - Collen Warner (Luis Gil 77) - Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio (Jean Alexandre 83).

TEAM NEWS

  • If Sporting KC and Philadelphia play to a tie on Friday, Real will be assured of a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They will also secure their berth with a single point vs. D.C. United, or if Colorado loses, or Houston ties or loses, or New York and Portland tie.
  • "I think that we have demonstrated clearly over two years what we are capable of winning some games and going on runs. I believe that we should be considered as contenders for the championship and that is how we think about ourselves," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis.
  • The victory gave Real Salt Lake the first winning streak of five games in MLS this season. RSL had won four games in a row to start the season; the only other team with a winning streak of as long as four games was the LA Galaxy. RSL won five in a row last May 1-29.
  • "We are a team that is kind of clicking right now. I don't think we are playing our best but we are playing good and we are playing good at the right time," said Kreis. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. With New York you don't know what to expect because sometimes they can be really good and sometimes they don't click. Lucky enough we dropped on them early and never looked back."
  • Real have now won three games in a row on the road, just the second time in club history that's been achieved (first: July — August, 2006).
  • Yordany Alvarez made his MLS debut, playing the full 90 minutes as the holding midfielder in place of the suspended Kyle Beckerman.
  • "I did sense jitters which is natural, especially for a player that is brand new to our system, which is a different system than a lot of teams play, but by the end of the game I was really pleased," said Kreis. "I thought that he made some critical tackles towards the end of the match, he was mostly good with the ball, made a few difficult decisions at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half that put us under some undue pressure, but all in all a really strong performance for his first time out and something to build on."
  • With one goal from Alvaro Saborio, and two from Fabian Espindola, the two players are now tied for the RSL team lead with nine goals each, three off the lead in the MLS Golden Boot standings held by Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry.
  • "Javi (Morales) has been out for a long time and obviously we need him, but I think we did a really good job (in New York)," said Espindola.