Atlanta United-Real Salt Lake Preview
While Atlanta United FC's impressive winning streak has come to an end, Real Salt Lake hopes to continue its own run of success.
The reigning MLS champs look to rebound from their first defeat in a month Friday night while trying to keep host Salt Lake from a season-high third consecutive win.
Atlanta (6-4-2) was amid an historic surge, outscoring its opponents 8-0 during a five-match winning stretch. However, that run of dominance ended with a 1-0 road loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Despite playing with 10 men from 35 minutes on, New York managed the only breakthrough of the game when Tom Barlow scored in the 65th minute.
"When you have the run that we did, at some point it's going to come to an end," Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan told Atlanta's official website. "Not the end of the world - But, you rest up and make sure that when we step on the field come Friday night, we are 100 percent at our best."
Atlanta has not lost back-to-back games yet this season, but will be playing a third consecutive match on the road. United also has won both previous meetings against Real Salt Lake during its young MLS existence.
RSL (5-6-1), though, is hoping to continue its relatively solid form that's resulted in four wins out of six games since losing four straight from March 16-April 6. After blowing an early two-goal lead at Colorado to regroup and win 3-2 on April 11, things were much easier for Salt Lake during a 3-0 home victory over Toronto FC on Saturday.
Damir Kreilach, Sebastian Saucedo and Jefferson Savarino each scored and RSL's defense clamped down against TFC to post its third clean sheet of 2019.
"Two wins in a row," coach Mike Petke told Salt Lake's official website. "The most important (thing now) is Atlanta, which is a whole new complication that we're going deal with (in) them. We're what, a third of the way through the season? I'm hoping that we keep going on a trajectory that, forget about wins and losses, we're improving play."
It's uncertain if Liberian striker Sam Johnson (four goals) will be back in RSL's starting XI after he was benched for the Toronto match by Petke for showing up late to a team meeting. Johnson has come under fire this season for complaining about his lack of touches, but that was reportedly addressed in-house.
Teammate Albert Rusnak, meanwhile, has a team-leading five goals and Salt Lake's only one in those two matches versus Atlanta.
United midfielder Hector Villalba has just one goal this season but scored in both games against RSL.
Updated May 22, 2019