USA MLS – Real Salt Lake v DC United Preview (1/7/16)

RSL-DCU

Real Salt Lake preview

RSL have had a very good season in the league, but would’ve been disappointed to go out of the cup on penalties Wednesday night. They were defeated by Seattle at home, so wasted a golden opportunity to make the quarter finals. In MLS they sit third in the western conference, with loads of home games left and also a couple of games in hand against most opposition. After the debacle of 2015, Utah outfit have bounced back strongly, thanks mostly to the play of their attacking trio Plata, Movsisyan & Martinez. RSL are usually very strong at home and have won 5 out of 6 in front of their own fans this season, the other being a draw. Midfielder Sunny is definitely ruled out because of injury. The rest of the squad is listed as healthy but after playing extra time and penalties just a few nights ago, anyone could’ve picked up a knock we don’t know about.

DC United preview

The visitors weren’t in US Open Cup action midweek so have had a whole seven days to prepare. This is always a difficult trip to Real Salt Lake at altitude so they definitely need the extra physical freshness compared to their opponents. I have said all season DC United are impossible to predict from one week to another. Last weekend I didn’t really fancy them too much but they claimed a comfortable win against New England. I’m not really sure how they’ll fare here but with a good gameplan they can get themselves a good result against a potentially tired opponent. DC United do have injuries, roughly half a dozen. But all of them are to players who have been missing for a few weeks so are used to life without them. The key defensive duo of Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum should return here following suspension and international duty respectively. DCU have only scored four away goals all season, the joint lowest tally in MLS. But they’ve only lost 2 out of 7 contests, which is a pretty good return.

Conclusion

This is a difficult one. If this was a normal week in a normal situation then I’d strongly favour RSL to win. They are a strong home side and I don’t really rate DC United much, especially away from home at a location like this. I just wonder how much RSL will have left in the tank though. Just two nights ago they got knocked out of the US Open cup on penalties after fielding a really strong team. Surely the coach has to make some changes to freshen things up. If he doesn’t, certain individuals might be running on fumes come the end of the contest. DC United will come here and make themselves difficult to break down. I don’t think it’ll be much of a high tempo game and both teams could cancel each other out. It also has to be mentioned that each team has a really good starting goalkeeper in Nick Rimando and Bill Hamid. Both routinely make some brilliant saves which lowers goal expectation. Overall I actually think this is a major 0-0 contender and if any team is to win, one goal may well be enough.

Prediction: 0-0

Betting analysis

RSL are a shade odds-on here which is maybe a tad short considering their midweek match not so long ago. That said, the Utah side are incredibly strong at home and DC United might struggle to adapt to the altitude. So anyone thinking about backing the visitors +0.5 would have to be fairly brave. A more interesting possibility is backing under 2.5 goals. A generous looking 1.90 can be grabbed on this line and I have to say I was tempted to take it. Personally though, I’m not an under backer and I always feel uncomfortable in this sort of situation. Five or RSL’s last six MLS games have all ended over and a lot of their recent games have been more end to end. I just don’t see this match containing many chances though and the hosts could be flat. Couple that with an away side who will be happy just to defend and it really feels like a good under chance. Reluctantly, I will refrain from betting here but I was highly tempted to get involved.

Recommended bet: None

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