New on Sports Illustrated: Real Salt Lake-Minnesota United Preview

September 05, 2020 at 02:36AM

While Minnesota United FC continues to struggle, Real Salt Lake is quietly putting itself in position to contend with the best in the Western Conference.

Minnesota looks to avoid a fourth straight defeat on Sunday night when it hosts a Salt Lake squad that's unbeaten in three consecutive matches.

The return from the MLS is Back Tournament has not been kind to Minnesota (3-3-2), which has been outscored 8-2 while losing all three matches to Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas and Houston. Six of those goals conceded came in the last two contests, including 3-0 defeat to the Dynamo on Wednesday.

The current state of the club is a far cry from the one that opened the season with three straight wins and looked as one of the favorites to win the MLS is Back Tournament. It hasn't helped that star defender Ike Opara is still not with the club, but this also isn't a team void of enough collective talent to contend in the West.

"You are only as good as your last game, and as of late we haven't been great," midfielder Marlon Hairston told Minnesota's official website. "We have to figure this thing out. The only thing we can do is look forward to our next game.

"It's a big game Sunday ... We know what (Real Salt Lake) are about and we really need to dig deep and get three points at home."

Minnesota and RSL (2-1-5) played to a scoreless draw at the MLS is Back Tournament.

Despite the potential distraction of all that's going on with RSL off the pitch - Dell Loy Hansen's ownership, executive Andy Carroll's leave of absence, John Kimball named the interim president of Utah Soccer - Salt Lake is 1-0-2 since the resumption of the regular season and shares the same 11 points as Minnesota.

Those draws have come over RSL's two most recent contests. Pablo Ruiz's goal in the 85th minute helped Salt Lake salvage a point with Wednesday's 2-2 finish against Seattle.

"This year, you can feel something is a little bit different," defender Justen Glad, whose goal Wednesday leveled the match at 1-1 in the 50th minute, told Real Salt Lake's official website. "We've always had to fight, and obviously we (wanted) three points, but it felt good to come back from being a goal down twice."

It's quite possible RSL might be playing from behind this weekend. It's 1-3-3 all-time against United and been outscored 10-5 while losing all three previous meetings at Minnesota.

Salt Lake's Damir Kreilach (five goals in 2020) had a goal in three straight matches before the Seattle contest. He has just one goal in five matches versus Minnesota.

United's Kevin Molino leads his squad with three goals, but his last official score came at the MLS is Back Tournament.

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