Indecent exposure

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Real Salt Lake and a red-hot D.C. United will square off in a match tonight, both searching for points.

Sound familiar? On June 23, D.C. United made the trip to Salt Lake City unbeaten in its last seven matches. RSL was winless for the year and had just made one of many trades to help spark floundering playoff dreams.

The trade worked. Newly acquired striker Robbie Findley, formerly of the Los Angeles Galaxy, sandwiched the intermission with two goals to give Real the 2-1 upset win.

Now, in the second leg of the clubs’ two meetings this season, D.C. United (14-6-4) is unbeaten in its last eight matches, winning five games by at least two goals.

Real has seen better days since nabbing its first victory of 2007 in its showdown with the Black and Red. RSL (4-12-6) saw the influx of Findley, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and Argentines Fabian Espindola, Javier Morales and Matias Mantilla elevate the club’s play.

“If we go out and play our best game and (D.C. United) do too, we can still win,” Beckerman said.

To win, Real must keep tabs of Luciano Emilio, currently the most dangerous man in MLS who leads the league in goals scored with 18. Named MLS Player of the Week for posting two straight two-goal performances, the striker’s activity should be the focus of any team’s defense.

Defense was the problem in Real’s last match. Houston capitalized on RSL’s mistakes en route to a 4-3 victory.

“There were just too many technical breakdowns,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “We gave the ball away too easily. Against a team like Houston, they’re going to punish you. I thought we gave away too many silly free kicks and corner kicks.”

Emilio combines with several playmaking teammates for D.C. United — who comfortably lead the MLS in goals scored and assists.

All-time MLS goal-scoring leader Jaime Moreno and midfielders Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez and Fred all have tallied at least five goals and five assists this season.

Although Real’s offensive production has remained at the other end of the spectrum, the team has harmonized for an improved attack.

“We realize that we haven’t scored enough over the first three quarters of the season,” Kreis said. “So we have been trying to figure out how we’re going to get players forward and how we’re going to get them forward quickly.”

Real received a boost in its loss to Houston from Kyle Brown off the bench. The striker scored his first MLS goal to pull his club within one goal in the 82nd minute. His improvement has not gone unnoticed.

“We’ve seen that his level keeps increasing and increasing,” Kreis said. “His experience is paying dividends.”

Real is looking for a boost from every player that steps onto the field, whether a starter or a reserve.

“I think you have to rely on substitutes coming in and making a difference,” Kreis said.

Getting wins has made a noticeable difference on RSL’s prospects. The last time Real faced off with D.C. United, gaining points in the MLS standings was of dire concern.

Eleven points out of the last playoff spot currently held by Chicago, RSL is within striking distance of its preseason playoff expectations. Real plays three matches between today and Sept. 19. Chicago plays one match in that time, providing RSL the opportunity to close the gap.

A victory tonight would also propel RSL in front of Toronto FC, which Real faces Saturday.

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