Resurgent Real takes on red hot D.C.

[TV PREVIEW] Should the league's best team be wary an opponent at the opposite end of the totem pole? As usual in MLS, the answer is yes. RSL has but four wins, but three of them have come in the last six games and that stretch includes a 1-0 victory over Western Conference leader Houston. For its first win of the season, after starting out with five losses and six ties, RSL beat United, 2-1, June 23 with a pair of goals by rookie Robbie Findley. (RSL still has six ties and would surely celebrate getting one at RFK.)

D.C. UNITED (14-6-4) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (4-12-6)
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick


United is missing forward Jaime Moreno, on duty with the Bolivian national team for its friendly against Peru. Moreno's stats are modest - five goals, six assists - and most of those goals came from the penalty spot, but still D.C. is not quite as clever or incisive if Moreno is slowed by fatigue or injury, or absent.

Guy Roland-Kpene, a 24-year-old from Ivory Coast, will start in place of Moreno and Coach Tom Soehn is expected to rest two or three other players even though D.C.'s next league game is not until Sept. 23 at Chicago. Its first-leg match against Guadalajara in the Copa Sudamericana is three days later and the second leg is a week after that.

Findley leads RSL with six goals. The Argentine triumvirate of Matias Mantilla, Javier Morales, and Fabian Espindola has combined for three goals and two assists in the last three games. In those three games, RSL has scored eight goals; it managed just 14 in the previous 19 contests.

Even without Moreno, D.C. has its own South American firepower: Luciano Emilio (18 goals), Christian Gomez (6 goals, 7 assists), Fred (6 goals, 5 assists), as well as Ben Olsen (7 goals, 6 assists).

Last Sunday, United blew away New England, 4-2, after falling behind. Emilio netted twice to seal the win after Fred opened the scoring and Moreno equalized with the Revs leading, 2-1.

Coach Jason Kreis at least has the Utah MLS entry playing with pride, and D.C. could be a bit fatigued playing its fourth game in 12 days. Yet the sharpest team in the league - seven wins and a tie in its last eight games - is playing with focus and purpose as the playoffs approach. RSL still has faint playoff hopes but is building for next year; D.C. is in the moment.

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