DC United's hectic stretch ends with tough task at RSL

Bill Hamid

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WASHINGTON – With one more match remaining in the most trying portion of D.C. United’s regular-season schedule, a result against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS Live) likely would label D.C.’s five-game, two-week stretch a success.

With only five matches in all of September (including Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium), United will gladly welcome some time off following a hectic run.

“It’s difficult," said goalkeeper Bill Hamid (above). "It sucks to be put in that position, five games in such a short period of time. But we all took it and ran with it, the opportunity to play so many games. We’ve got injuries, but we have a group here that is willing to fight no matter what schedule they put in front of us."

United have two draws, a win and a loss in their past four matches. And, at least from D.C.’s perspective, both draws easily could have been wins. Still, as it stands, the club is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and in position to come out of the stretch with eight points if they beat Real Salt Lake.

D.C. have collected five points in the past four matches, and have been outscored 8-7.

“We’ve got a break here [after RSL] to regroup and get our feet back under us and push for the playoffs,” Hamid said. “There’s solace in the fact that we played well [in a 2-2 draw against New York] and the fact that we played a style of soccer that we know can get us into the playoffs.”

Beginning with a controversial, red-card-filled draw against Philadelphia, the effects of the clustered schedule culminated when United coach Ben Olsen opted to rest three key players (captain Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and Branko Boskovic) for a majority of the club’s 3-0 loss against Montreal.

While the frequent matches have been hard on D.C., playing on the road has been harder. Overall, United are 3-8-1 away from RFK Stadium this season and have lost their previous five road matches. In those five matches, they have been outscored, 13-3. Real Salt Lake are 9-4-1 at home this year, but winless in August.

“This stretch was definitely a real test for us and I think we did pretty well considering the amount of injuries and red cards, all those different situations we had to go through,” said defender Robbie Russell, who sided with RSL for the first four years of his MLS career. “I think we did really well to come out with some decent points. If we can end it off with this away game at Salt Lake and maybe get some points there, then I think it’s been a successful stretch.”