It's evident that Real Salt Lake is struggling without playmaking midfielder Javier Morales. Still, D.C. United won't underestimate them.
United have lost their last five road games against Real Salt Lake heading into Saturday night's matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Salt Lake (6-3-3) lost Morales to a broken ankle May 7 in a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA. The club is 1-2-3 since he's been out.
"They're not the same team without Morales," D.C. coach Ben Olsen told United's official website. "He's an unbelievable player. He was a big part of their success. Saying that, they're a very good team, rather than probably the best team in the league."
Fabian Espindola's second-half goal helped Salt Lake post a 1-1 draw at Philadelphia last Saturday. That result against the Eastern Conference co-leader, however, has not restored the team's confidence.
"We're not as maybe superior to these other teams right now in the way we're playing," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "And when you're not, teams are going to get some good gos at you, especially when you're playing on the road. We're just trying to battle and trying to figure ourselves out right now through this tough stretch."
RSL's home unbeaten streak against MLS opponents ended at 29 games with a 2-1 loss to Seattle on May 28. The club has won both matchups at Rio Tinto against D.C. (4-5-4), which has been outscored 13-3 during the five-game road skid in Utah.
"It's not easy to play there," midfielder Chris Pontius said. "I know their streak's not intact anymore, but they're still a good team."
The mood in United's camp has not been good following last Saturday's 4-2 home loss to San Jose. Steven Lenhart became the second player to record a hat trick at D.C.'s expense this season.
"I think everyone has been a little upset, obviously with the result over the weekend," Pontius said. "Everyone's been real angry at practice, which is good. You like to see that anger out of players and we're just focused on Salt Lake now."
Forward Charlie Davies continues to mend after missing a game May 29 due to a hamstring injury. Davies, who has a team-high six goals, has entered the last two matches as a substitute.
Morales is not the only missing player for RSL. Alvaro Saborio remains with Costa Rica and Arturo Alvarez with El Salvador for the Gold Cup, although Will Johnson will return Saturday since Canada was eliminated.
RSL has conceded the fewest goals in MLS with seven. There's some hope for the future since all four teams ahead of it in the Western Conference standings have played at least three more matches.
"(I'm) really encouraged by the fact that we have seen some good stuff in every game," coach Jason Kreis said. "But still a bit concerned with not being able to put it together for 90 minutes."