Any D.C. United visit to Rio Tinto Stadium will bring back fond memories thanks to LEWIS NEAL!'s goal and some unexpectedly stout team defending in last year's US Open Cup final. However, since then the Black-and-Red have undergone a complete overhaul and don't necessarily have to rely on parking the bus, removing its tires, and then removing critical engine components to make sure the bus is never moved again. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, has changed coaches and added a couple new faces, but by and large resemble the same high-quality team United somehow beat twice last year.
It's kind of an odd situation, as this is once again a match with trophy implications. A win for United will - at least temporarily - put last year's historically bad team at the top of the MLS standings. That would also open up a seven-point gap between RSL and United, effectively ending the chances of the Shield ending up in Utah. Given that these are two of MLS's more trophy-hungry teams in general, tonight's match is a bigger game than your normal August MLS fixture.
Kickoff Time: 10:00 PM Eastern, which means #DCUAfterDark is back.
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, UT)
TV/Streaming: CSN Washington will have the game in the DMV, and for those out of the area there's MLS Live. If you don't get MLS Live, it's your lucky day because tonight's game is the MLS Stream of the Week. Free soccer!
Projected D.C. United starting XI: The possibility of United really getting into a squad rotation isn't quite here yet, as there are eight days between games for the Black-and-Red. With Perry Kitchen suspended and the opponent among MLS's elite, this one will require the best eleven Ben Olsen has at his disposal. I'm expecting Bill Hamid in goal; a back four of Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, and the likely fit again Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, LEWIS NEAL!, and Chris Rolfe in the midfield; and Luis Silva underneath Eddie Johnson in something that is sort of a 442 and sort of a 4411.
Neal could end up on the bench behind Jared Jeffrey despite the glory of his last visit to Utah, while Fabian Espindola seems more likely to enter the game as a substitute given that he's been out for six weeks.
Match previews: On the United side of things, we have our staff predictions with awesome photo selection, Ben's lineup prediction, a scouting report written by some jerk, and a question exchange with Randal Serr of RSL Soapbox. Staying with those fine gents who I want to suffer for 90 minutes tonight, they look back on the last time they faced Espindola and what they'll do at the back in a game in which they'll be short three defenders. To add a neutral look, here's MLSsoccer's preview.
Prediction: Both teams are lacking important defensive players, and both teams are good at scoring goals. Give me 2-2, with Rolfe and Johnson scoring for United.
What are you drinking? 21st Amendment's Back In Black black IPA most likely.
As always, this is your place for pre-game, in-game, and post-game chat.