FC Dallas has leapt to the top of MLS Western Conference standings with a continued run of solid play but will need all of that and more to handle Real Salt Lake when the two sides square off on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
RSL brings some momentum of its own into Saturday’s match via a huge 4-2 home victory Wednesday over Sporting Kansas City.
After conceding early, RSL (8-8-2, 26 points) roared back to take a 3-1 halftime lead on goals by Jefferson Savarino, Corey Baird and Sebastian Saucedo. RSL added a fourth tally 10 minutes into second-half stoppage time off a penalty kick by Luis Silva.
RSL improved to 7-1-1 at home this season and moved above Portland on wins into fourth place in the Western Conference with the victory.
“We started really playing around the 25th to 30th minute — before that, the guys will hold their hand up and say the same thing: it wasn’t good enough,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “Things started flowing for us in both attacking and defending. We did a very good job with our counter-press and reactions in transition after that point and that created a lot.”
Dallas (10-2-5, 35 points) made a statement of its own as it came from behind to beat Supporters’ Shield-leading Atlanta United 3-2 at home on Wednesday.
Reto Zielger gave the Huntsmen the lead 22 minutes into the match, but Atlanta roared back to take the lead in the 73rd minute.
Tesho Akindele came off the bench to score twice in a two-minute span inside the final four minutes to secure three points for Dallas, which remains undefeated at Toyota Stadium this season.
“I thought we beat the best team in the league,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “I have my respect for Atlanta and what Tata is doing there with that team. It is very difficult to play against a group of players that are very talented and very crafty, and they have a lot of sequences that are not easy to manage or control.
“That is what we did in the first half. We controlled their sequences. Our team was disciplined enough, and we created options, which gave us the hope to be a team that competes against anyone.”
Dallas is working to fill the hole left when Mauro Diaz, one of the league’s top playmakers, was transferred to Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai FC of the UAE Arabian Gulf League on Tuesday. Akindele did his part to lift the Huntsmen on Wednesday.
This is the second meeting between the teams this year, with both settling for a 1-1 draw in Frisco, Texas, to open the season.
Dallas owns a 19-11 edge all time in matches against Salt Lake, with seven draws. RSL has won 10 of the 20 matches at home, with four ties, but was beaten by Dallas 3-0 in the most recent match between the two sides at Rio Tinto on May 6, 2017.
—Field Level Media