D.C. United catch Real Salt Lake at an interesting time this week: RSL have lost only once in their last six matches, but they will be missing both of their starting fullbacks and possibly also midfield talisman Kyle Beckerman. Meanwhile United are coming off a classically Sisyphean loss in Houston and will be looking to start a new winning streak to replace the one snapped by the Dynamo, but we'll also be missing our own talismanic midfielder in Perry Kitchen. And, oh yeah, despite being awful last year, the Black-and-Red swept the Claret-and-Cobalt, winning the teams' only MLS matchup in DC as well as the U.S. Open Cup final in Salt Lake. One imagines that the hosts will be out for a bit of vengeance this time around.
So, how will it go down at Rio Tinto Stadium when this one kicks off Saturday night? Here's what our staff has to say - be sure to make your own predictions known down in the comments.
D.C. United's tour of difficult places to win continues on Saturday night. But, D.C. United has won a trophy at Rio Tinto, so it can be done. This feels like a game in which the veterans will step up to ensure DCU gets a result, but it's only a 1-1 tie unfortunately. The goal comes from Davy Arnaud, and Bill Hamid (already a grizzled veteran despite his youthful age) continues to be ridiculously good.
One question coming into the game will be if Kyle Beckerman plays after his 'nasty feet' diagnosis (he will), the other will be how motivated Fabian Espindola will be to prove Salt Lakers wrong for casting him aside (moderately). More important and aside of both of those will be if Nick DeLeon and Chris Korb make the plane after 'leg tightness' forced them to miss the Houston game. One would hope with a week off afterwards they do, and punish an RSL side missing their outside backs as a result. Going 2-1 DC if that happens, 1-1 otherwise.
Adam M Taylor
I'm going optimistic here, even with Kitchen suspended. United have been a team that steps up when an important player goes down, and I think they'll find a way here, too. Bill Hamid and his defense keep the clean sheet, while Chris Rolfe and his magic headband manage to get past Nick Rimando at the other end. 1-0 good guys.
We will struggle without our own Kerry Beckerkitchen -- RSL attacks that never should have gotten off the ground will find their way inside the box. Our All-Stars will put on a mighty show, but some balls will get through. DC falls 2-1.
After a gutwrenching loss in Houston, D.C. United takes on their old foe Real Salt Lake. After being basically the only team that D.C. Could beat in 2013, will that magic still hold? I think so, with a 2-1 win for the good guys. Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe score for United, with Joao Plata scoring for RSL.
With 6 days' rest (which will seem like months with this upcoming schedule), DC United returns to the place where last season they lifted a trophy. No trophy on the line in this one, but United still rebounds from their gut-wrenching loss at Houston and gets one in the RioT. For old times sake, LEWIS NEAL!* wins it for us. 1-0 the final, United brings 3 points home to the crib.
*Per official legislation enacted on 10/20/2012, this is the only way you can write or say Lewis Neal's name in public.
That's our take. Let us know in the comments how you see this one playing out.