Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union will each be looking to win a second straight match for the first time this season when they meet Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.
Salt Lake (4-5-1) visits after a 3-2 home win over D.C. United, a game that turned dramatically in a five-minute stretch of the first half that included two RSL goals and a red card to D.C. United’s Joseph Mora.
Albert Rusnak scored RSL’s go-ahead goal to punctuate that stretch and then assisted on what turned out to be the game-winner from Jefferson Savarino.
Rusnak admits his side could’ve done a better job of closing out the match, but also believes the victory was vindication of a recent focus on playing more aggressively and applying more defensive pressure.
"I’m sure we will create chances again and I’m sure we’ll play on the front foot," Rusnak said of the game in Philadelphia. "We’ll put the high pressure on them even though we’re on the road. Because you can see over the last three-four games that we are better when we put pressure on teams than if we just sit back and wait for them to come out."
Meanwhile, the Union preserved a 2-0 shutout victory at the Montreal Impact last weekend despite playing down a man for most of the second half after Cory Burke’s dismissal.
The match marked Philadelphia’s first clean sheet since March, when the Union began the season with back-to-back defensive shutouts. And after Burke struck early, Philadelphia scored a second goal late while playing down a man through Haris Medunjanin.
Philadelphia has never beaten Salt Lake in 10 previous league meetings, losing four and drawing six. Changing that may depend on whether the Union can contain Rusnak. The Slovakian international has three goals and three assists this season.
"Not a lot of people talk about him in maybe the same breath as (Toronto’s Sebastian) Giovinco and (New York City’s) David Villa, but he’s a special player," said Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin. "He’s comfortable on the ball. We’re going to have our hands full trying to do our best to contain him."
Joao Plata is questionable for Salt Lake after he exited last weekend’s game early with an undisclosed injury.
It’s less clear where RSL might best focus its defensive attention.
Designated Player signing David Accam was reduced to a substitute’s role in Philadelphia’s last victory. Forward CJ Sapong remains questionable with a lower body injury after missing last week, and Burke is suspended because of his red card.