MLS: Opportunistic Real Salt Lake set to face Atlanta United

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Real Salt Lake look to build their next unbeaten streak when they host Atlanta United on Saturday in Sandy, Utah.

RSL’s single-season club record of 15 matches without a loss (9-6-0) ended with a 1-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy on June 22. After a bye week gave Salt Lake extra time to rest and prepare, the team returned to top form with Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the visiting Houston Dynamo.

The teams exchanged leads until Braian Ojeda’s goal in the 67th minute put RSL (11-3-7, 40 points) ahead for good. Real Salt Lake outshot Houston 20-7 and had a 10-2 advantage in shots on target.

It was the type of “attitude” head coach Pablo Mastroeni wanted to see from his players in rebounding from a rare loss.

“I felt like we controlled the game and created a lot, probably the game where we created the best opportunities all year. … We had a really good performance on both sides of the ball,” Mastroeni said.

Salt Lake enters the weekend tied for second in goals scored (43) in the league. By contrast, Atlanta United is tied for third in the league in expected goals (42.73), but tied for 19th in actual goals (29).

An inconsistent finishing touch again hurt the Five Stripes (6-9-6, 24 points) in their last match. Atlanta outshot the New England Revolution by a 19-12 margin, but ended up with a 2-1 loss.

“The positive is that there’s chances there, but the expected goals and chances, they don’t mean anything to me unless they go in the back of the net,” Atlanta interim head coach Rob Valentino said.

The Five Stripes are 2-1-2 in Valentino’s five matches running the sidelines.

None of Atlanta United’s top three scorers will be available Saturday. Thiago Almada (six goals) is reportedly close to departing the team in a transfer deal, Giorgos Giakoumakis (five goals) was already transferred last month, and Jamal Thiare (five goals) is injured.

RSL superstar Cristian “Chicho” Arango has a league-leading 16 goals, and his 11 assists are tied for third in MLS.

–Field Level Media

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