USOC Preview: DC United, Real Salt Lake seek to advance
Real Salt Lake at DC United in a USOC play-in game at RFK Stadium; 7:30 p.m. ET.
The all-time record between these teams is tied at 4 wins and 4 losses, plus 2 draws.
What's at stake?
The winner will advance to the round of 16 and be one step closer to lifting the Dewar Trophy. United have reached (and hosted) the cup final two years running and claimed the title in 1996 and 2008, while Real Salt Lake will be eyeing an Open Cup run as a logical next step in their franchise's progress from their 2009 MLS Cup championship.
On May 23, 2009, RSL toiled their way to a 0-0 draw at RFK, taking points out of a trip to the nation's capital for only the second time in club history. RSL might have even won had DC goalkeeper Josh Wicks not made several excellent saves to deny the visitors on a number of counterattacking opportunities.
Freddy Adu was supposed to be a 21st-century megastar for MLS --and U.S. soccer in general-- when DC United drafted the Ghana-born, Maryland-raised phenom with the first pick of the 2004 SuperDraft at the tender age of 14. But after three uneven seasons in D.C. marked by underachievement and friction with head coach Peter Nowak, Adu was shipped west (along with veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando) to Utah, where fledgling RSL was still struggling to carve out its identity both on and off the field. While he saw more playing time with RSL, he could not be persuaded to resist the siren's call of Europe, as he left for Portuguese side Benfica after less than a year with the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Heroes & villains
Javier Morales vs Clyde Simms – When he and his teammates are in form, Morales adds the touch of playmaking class that makes RSL one of the slickest-passing sides in the league and his eye for goal makes him a constant danger in and around the opposition penalty area. Simms possesses the fitness and perseverance to limit the Argentine's effectiveness, but will probably need help from his central midfield partner, most likely to be Stephen King, on Wednesday.
Alvaro Saborio vs Juan Manuel Pena/Carey Talley – Offering a tasty blend of size, skill and movement, RSL's Costa Rican forward has made a strong start to his MLS career, and United's central defenders will have to perform at a high level to keep him under wraps, especially given the creative teammates capable of providing him service.
Stat that makes you go "Hmm …"
15 and 5 – RSL have a well-established love of home cooking, as their 15-game undefeated streak at Rio Tinto Stadium indicates. But this season they've shown signs of being almost as effective on the road, and if they can extend their current five-game winning run through this week's extended stay in D.C., it would serve as loud notice that the defending champs are an even stronger force in 2010.
He said it
“No, we’re not going to start playing him at forward.” – Real coach Jason Kreis last week, after defender Chris Wingert scored against Chivas USA, his first MLS goal in 147 career matches.