Sandy, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of second-place teams will meet at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday as Real Salt Lake will play host to D.C. United.
The two clubs enter the weekend in second place in their respective conferences as D.C. United's 37 points has the team two points back of Sporting Kansas City for the lead in the East while Salt Lake, on 36 points, is three points adrift of Seattle Sounders FC in the West.
D.C. will head into Saturday's affair looking to regroup after a disappointing finish to its last encounter. United had won four straight in league play and looked likely to extend its unbeaten run to five games, but a late defensive miscue granted the Houston Dynamo a 1-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium.
"It was a gutsy performance from us, and we knew it was going to take that. We knew we were going to have to hold the fort at times," United head coach Ben Olsen said after the match. "I thought we did that, and to end that way is tough to swallow. It doesn't get any easier next week. Our focus is to learn from this, and move on like we've done this year."
Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, is unbeaten in its last four league games after its narrow 1-0 defeat of the Colorado Rapids last weekend.
The lone goal of the affair came just 14 minutes in when Chris Wingert picked out the surging run of Javier Morales. The playmaker took the chance with great aplomb, slipping a shot underneath the on-rushing Clint Irwin.
More important than the goal, however, was the clean sheet, which was Salt Lake's first since a scoreless draw with FC Dallas on May 24. It was made even more impressive by the fact that the Claret and Cobalt played virtually the entire second half with 10 men after Aaron Maund received a red card for a professional foul in the 46th minute.
"I think we've really been searching for a shutout. It was good for us to have a tough challenge with ten men and be able to hold them off and get the shutout," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "The three points is big because we were only three points ahead of them. We got a little separation. These are the kinds of games that may be a turning point for our season."
According to RSL head coach Jeff Cassar, the depth in the team helped alleviate some of the pressure following Maund's red card.
"We didn't plan to play short. We had our roster set up and if we had any issues, we were able to deal with them," said Cassar. "Our subs were fantastic. Carlos (Salcedo) was a beast on the back line when he came in. Cole (Grossman) really solidified the midfield. John (Stertzer) really made a couple nice plays even though he was in for seven minutes."
Salt Lake did not leave Dick's Sporting Goods Park unscathed, though. In addition to Maund, starting defenders Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert will also be suspended for Saturday's meeting with D.C. United due to yellow card accumulation.
"It's going to be a tricky one," Cassar said. "It doesn't happen too many times where both outside backs are gone in a game. But we're prepared. We have guys that will step in and do a great job for us."