While these two teams are meeting for the first time on the field this season, they do have somewhat of a history this season after making a trade just a few weeks ago. Alverado Saborio was sent to D.C for Luis Silva. When the trade was made, it appeared that it fit both teams needs. Silva hasn’t been able to be fully healthy yet, but Sabo made a firm impact in his first appearance for the Black-and-Red last week in a come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia.
“They’re legit, they’re low in the standings in the West, but the West is pretty darn good and they got a lot of points. They’ve got several guys that can punish you if you have any lapse of concentration.” – Ben Olsen on Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake is in good form right now, winning their last two games and trying to earn their way into the playoff picture in the fierce Western conference. Led by a trio of dangerous attackers, RSL is not going to sneak up on anyone, especially United Coach Ben Olsen. When asked about the challenges that RSL could present United, Olsen shared at length. “Morales is in very good form right now and that’s a very dangerous thing. Plata’s back and fit and healthy and causing fits for back lines. They always have someone to stretch us, with their number nine whether it’s Sandoval or the youngster.” In addition to those players named that can stretch the field, they are solid in the middle with players like Kyle Beckerman and Luis Gil. “They know what they’re doing, they’re a good squad and we’ll have to be extremely sharp” added Olsen.
“Kind of shortly afterwards, oh yeah we play them. We always know the schedule but you’re pretty locked into the two weeks in front usually. That’s at least how my brain works. It crept up pretty quick.” – Olsen on if team was aware they played Salt Lake so soon after trade
Sabo had a great impact in last week’s win, proving that he was exactly what the doctor ordered for D.C’s struggling attack. A “true nine” has been used to describe him by almost everyone that talks about his play. He holds defenses accountable, takes so much attention that it opens up so much space for others. Rolfe, Espindola, DeLeon all had very good games in their first outing with Sabo up front. His size is something different for the Black-and-Red, as it took time for Korb and Kemp to realize that they could play the long ball down the middle rather than just down the flanks. RSL will have to deal with a much different type of attack from United, even though it involves a very familiar piece in Saborio.
“Would he like to score a goal against his former team? I’m sure, but he also just likes to score goals. Most nines do, what does he have to change his game for?” – Olsen on Saborio facing his former team
While the Black-and-Red has maintained their position atop the tables for some time now, they still haven’t yet been at full strength from a health standpoint all year. “Pontius and Sean continue to be in training, hopefully Michael and Halsti will get back next week and we can kind of sustain those type of numbers.” Olsen talked about those working their way back into form, but was quick to say that the guys that have been present have done a good job. There is great depth on this roster, Hamid has been out for nearly a month now. In terms of when Pontius and Franklin could return, Olsen said ” Barring any set back, we can start thinking about them being on the bench as early as next week, next weekend. It’s possible, we’re obviously going to be very smart with both of them.”
Real Salt Lake will be coming in hungry as they need wins to stack up to move higher in the standings out west, while the home side just wants to continue to get better. The message from Olsen almost after every game has been about “if they want to do something this year” referring to the post season. So there are multiple reasons as to why the top team in the East isn’t going to be complacent with their current position.
Keys for a United Victory
- Seize and dictate the tempo early. Real Salt Lake has the type of players that can stretch a defense, if DC is controlling the game and the pace, those players will be forced to defend
- Service Sabo down the middle. It’s only going to be their 2nd game together, but the wings and backs for United need to accept the new option of playing the ball down the middle to the big forward up front. Sabo is a willing and capable passer while also possessing the strength to hold off defenders and get a shot off
- Get off to a strong start. That was the issue last week, Olsen ripped the team for their start last week in the post game presser. Giving up two goals in three minutes is unacceptable for any team, let alone a squad at the top of the tables