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Real Salt Lake-D.C. United Preview
Real Salt Lake has historically had a very difficult time generating offense in road matches against D.C. United. Judging by how the teams have performed early this season, more of the same seems a distinct possibility.
Salt Lake and D.C. United both seek to continue their strong starts Saturday night when they meet at Audi Field in their lone matchup of the season.
RSL has had success at home against D.C. with an 8-1-2 record as the host in the all-time series, but road matches have presented far more trouble. Before a 1-0 victory at RFK Stadium on Aug. 12, 2017, Salt Lake had been 0-6-3 in the nation's capital. In 10 away games against United, RSL has totaled just 10 goals, with nearly half coming in a 6-4 loss in 2015.
After opening its season with a 1-1 draw at Houston, Salt Lake earned a 1-0 win over Vancouver in its home opener last Saturday.
The offense was again provided by Albert Rusnak, who converted a penalty kick in the 21st minute for his second goal of the season. Nick Rimando made five saves to preserve the 158th clean sheet of his MLS career.
"We really focused on defense since we're on the road so much the first 15 games," Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said. "In the first half, complete control of the game for us. In the second half, we were able to hold on for the 1-0 win."
Rimando is 3-0-1 in his last four games against United and has six shutouts in his past 11 matchups.
While four points through two games is a solid start, Petke knows his team needs more offensively Saturday.
"We just need to do the things we do best, making runs off the center back shoulder and also pushing the play in transition before they're able to organize and set," he said.
RSL hasn't had two wins through its first three games since opening 2-1-0 in 2012.
D.C. also has a win and a draw in two matches and is seeking more offense after it played to a scoreless draw Sunday against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Bill Hamid made six saves in his 200th regular-season start for his 56th MLS shutout, coming up with his best stop on Alex Ring's powerful long-distance shot in the opening half.
"We started off well, weathered the storm and got a hard-fought point on the road," said Hamid, one of 14 goalkeepers in MLS history to reach the 200-game milestone.
Spurred on by Hamid and an airtight defense, United is the only remaining MLS team yet to allow a goal. Hamid is 0-2-1 in his last three matches against RSL since a 1-0 home win in 2013, but has surrendered more than one goal only once in seven career matchups.
Wayne Rooney has yet to register his first goal of the season for D.C., so he'll try to dent that column Saturday against a team he's never faced.
"It's a good start for us, four points from the two games," Rooney said. "I think we've would've been happy with that before the two games."
Updated March 15, 2019