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Injury-riddled RSL hope to avenge USOC loss to DC

Posted on 05 June 2010 by kali

Real Salt Lake hopes to cap off a busy week in Washington, D.C., with a win over DC United on Saturday night, but it won’t be easy.

Not only have injuries hit Jason Kreis’ squad hard over the past week, but RSL lost 2-1 in extra time to United in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match on Wednesday.  Those extra minutes, combined with an upcoming home match against Los Angeles next Wednesday and a full slate of activities this week, mean that Kreis will be juggling his players’ tired legs with tactical decisions on Saturday.

Although Wednesday’s loss kept Real out of the Open Cup for the fourth time in four years, it wasn’t for lack of effort.  After a scoreless first half, usual starters Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola, and Alvaro Saborio entered the match as both teams tried to break the stalemate; however, each side was only able to score by converting penalty kicks late in the game.  D.C. rookie Andy Najar ended up making the difference in the match, scoring on a mazy run and splitting the RSL defense to give United the lead.

Kreis said Wednesday that he was pleased with his team’s effort, despite the result, and that he would be speaking with the players to see who felt strong enough to play Saturday.  “Those are all conversations that have yet to come, with the players in particular, to see how many guys are really up to it. We have to make sure we do everything we can for them to get them prepared.”

Defender Nat Borchers added, “I think everybody’s fired up for this game on Saturday. I think that we know if we come out and play that type of football and bring a little more into the final third that we’re going to come out on top.”

That intensity will be critical for RSL on Saturday, as several key players have gone down with injury over the past week.  Kyle Beckerman’s foot injury continues to keep him out of the lineup, while Nelson Gonzalez and Chris Wingert have both been listed as unavailable with hamstring injuries suffered last week.  Andy Williams, who was substituted at halftime of last week’s win over the Kansas City Wizards with a hamstring problem, is considered doubtful, although he planned to participate in training on Friday.  While most of the injuries affect the midfield, Robbie Findley’s absence with the U.S. World Cup team means that Kreis will have one less option up front as well.

United’s injury list is fairly substantial as well.  Brandon Barklage, Marc Burch, Bryan Namoff, and Andrew Quinn remain out with long-term injuries, while Dejan Jakovic is considered questionable and Luciano Emilio probable.

Although RSL has never won a league match at RFK, the players might consider DC a second home after the past week.  In addition to the two scheduled matches, several players and staff participated in an MLS Works/Nothing But Nets charity event at the Washington Monument on Thursday, while the members of the 2009 MLS Cup championship team visited the White House on Friday.

Yet despite the scheduling challenges, RSL has no plans to take its foot off the pedal going into the World Cup break.  “It’s a big opportunity on Saturday to get three points,” Will Johnson said.  “We’ve got two big games now before this break to put ourselves in a really good spot. It’s a crucial game, a massive opportunity for us.”

The match will kick off at 7:30 ET (5:30 MT) and can be seen in Utah on KUSG (KUTV 2.2/Comcast 111).

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