You guys ready for some viernes de fútbol? Tonight the Black-and-Red are in Salt Lake City, home to Nick Rimando, stunning stadium views, and hopefully three sweet, sweet road points.
We're not so sure on those three points, though.
We like to enter these Friday night matches coming off a big win. We desperately needed those three points against New England and this Friday is also important to vault us back into the upper tier of the Eastern Conference. But, RSL is really good and this is one of those games that is normally worrisome for our team. However, we get Birnbaum back on defense after a month away on international duty and #28 is clicking between the posts. I think it's a struggle of a game but we escape with a 1-1 draw, Neagle with the goal.
It's hard to predict a game in which RSL's lineup could be Nick Rimando and 10 second-choice field players, but could also be a mix of regulars and back-ups after Real went 120 minutes in the Open Cup on Tuesday. So I'll split the difference and make two predictions: Against a B team, United controls the early stages and eventually breaks through via Lucho Acosta. RSL pushes back after halftime to equalize on a goal from Jordan Allen, but United responds almost immediately with a goal from Alvaro Saborio. Bill Hamid makes sure that stands up and United gets a 2-1 win despite the elevation.
However, if some regulars start, I think United has trouble controlling play early. A header from a set piece for Aaron Maund gives RSL the lead, but as their legs tire (and before the elevation truly starts to hurt United), the Black-and-Red get one back through Acosta. RSL throws the kitchen sink at United in the late stages, but Bill Hamid thrives in those situations. United hangs on, somehow, for a 1-1 draw.
Elevation really isn't D.C. United's friend, and—weirdly—neither are games following a win by the Black-and-Red, even (or maybe especially) against tired, vulnerable opponents. I think our boys look good in this one, controlling play for long stretches, but the scoreline will tell a different story. Neagle scores his second goal in as many games through a penalty that also should have carried a DOGSO red card—which won't be given because Juan Guzman doesn't do DOGSO. After that, United puts sustained pressure on the home side's goal but can't find the finishing touch before halftime. RSL's difference makers, um, make the difference after the break with goals from Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez. Los Capitalinos fall 2-1.
D.C. United travels West to take on Real Salt Lake; were this a Cup final, I would be happy to predict victory no matter United's form, but alas, this is not. But maybe a new formation gives DCU continued new hope. I'm going to go with a 1-0 victory for the good guys, with Lamar Neagle and Bill Hamid staying hot.
I don't doubt that RSL will play a bit of a half and half lineup, Friday, trying to perhaps play guys like Javier Martinez and Joao Plata, still leaving them lethal. But I'll also restate something I said about them scoring next to nothing in the RioT for several years now. I think it'll be hard fought and RSL wins on a 74th minute goal 2-1, putting Alhaji Kamara's equalizing goal moments before to waste for DC.
I am nowhere near confident enough in DCU to predict that they can get a win in this game, regardless of which team RSL fields. Our beloved Black-and-Red have simply been too inconsistent, and since they grabbed a win last week, it feels to me like this is an almost inevitable loss. Hate to do it, but I'm predicting that RSL win 2-1, and the whole thing is very frustrating and probably avoidable.
What do you think? Share your predictions in the comments!