The Black-and-Red are in Salt Lake City for the first of two back-to-back road tests.
D.C. United look to take maximum points from the final five games of the season with the coaching staff keeping a watchful eye over individual and collective performances.
Real Salt Lake, like the other four remaining opponents, are vying for a playoff spot, adding an air of intensity that Wayne Rooney will demand his side to match. Come this point next season, he’ll want to be competing for a playoff spot. Saturday and the subsequent matches will be a litmus test for which system and players will give D.C. United the best chance to do that.
Kickoff at Rio Tinto Stadium is set for 9:30 p.m. ET, with live pre-match coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington and dcunited.com. Fans can tune in there or on ESPN+ and TeleXitos (ES). The match can also be viewed at the Official Heineken Watch Party at Public Bar Live.
Last Time Out
Last Sunday, D.C. United hosted the Colorado Rapids at Audi Field where, despite both sides creating a myriad of chances, the match finished in a scoreless draw.
When asked about the performance ahead of this match, Rooney said “we need to be more clinical and reward ourselves for some of the good things we’re doing...I thought that even though we were the better team for the majority of the game, we could’ve lost it in the last 10 minutes, so I was happy with the way the team hung on to get a point in the end.”
“There’s a lot of positives, but there’s also a lot of things we need to keep working on and keep trying to improve.”
As unfortunate as the playoff picture looks for D.C. United, it does present a unique opportunity for Wayne Rooney to take risks and assess players that have not yet featured prominently for the Black-and-Red. With two games in quick succession and key players missing due to injury and suspension, the expectations are still the same.
“These are very important games. We have to go into them trying to take as many points as we can and really build some momentum going into next season, because we’re really trying to build a squad next season that is capable of competing in this league.”
Saturday will mark David Ochoa’s first match at Rio Tinto Stadium since joining the Black-and-Red in late July.
“It’s definitely going to be emotional,” he said during his pre-match conference in Salt Lake City. “I spent five years of my life here. I know everyone very close.”
But his approach, he explained, is business-first. “It’s a must-win game for us,” he told reporters. “We definitely have a game plan and a style we want to play, so I think it’s just trusting what Wayne Rooney wants to do and everything will go our way.”
Rooney said that he expects RSL to be a tough challenge. The Venezuelan attacking duo of Segio Cordóva and Jefferson Savarino have proven they can hurt teams at any given moment.
“They’ve obviously got a lot of firepower to hit us on the counterattack,” D.C. United midfielder Chris Durkin said ahead of the match.
Staying switched on defensively, even when in possession, was a theme that Rooney, Ochoa, and Durkin pointed out as key to picking up a positive result.
Next Home Match
D.C. United head to Kansas City following Saturday’s match for the finale of their doubleheader on the road. The Black-and-Red will return to Audi Field on Sunday, September 18 to take on Inter Miami FC in the penultimate home match of the season.