Pablo Mastroeni is pleased with the strides Real Salt Lake have made on the road this season and is hopeful they can cause more problems at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

RSL sit top of the Western Conference, one point clear of LAFC, with a 0-0 draw away at CF Montreal at the weekend extending their unbeaten streak.

They have not lost any of their last 14 matches in the MLS and are unbeaten in their last nine on the road.

Mastroeni has been impressed with his team's progress, particularly their performances on the road.

"I'm really pleased with the mindset, and I feel like as a group we're starting to really understand moments and really control games as to the way we want to play," said Mastroeni.

"Going to any stadium away from home, it's very difficult to [get wins] but I feel we've made great strides in that direction over the course of the season.

"It's taken us 18 games to get to a point where we feel like we can go on the road and really dictate large portions of the games. I feel like we're getting really brave with our performances and I'm pleased with the progress we're making."

Meanwhile, Sporting KC sit 13th and are seven points behind the playoff places having won just one of their last 12 matches in the league.

After a 4-2 defeat to LA Galaxy at the weekend, head coach Peter Vermes has admitted he may need to bring in reinforcements in the upcoming transfer window.

"Over the next two to three windows we're going to have to be very active," Vermes said. "If it happens? I can't tell you if it does or not. We need players on all three lines, for sure."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell

Russell has scored seven goals in 15 career matches against Real Salt Lake in all competitions. He has only scored more goals against Houston Dynamo (eight) since he joined Sporting in 2018.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

Real Salt Lake are on a nine-match unbeaten run on the road in the MLS, though they were held to a 0-0 draw against Montreal last weekend. Arango was their biggest threat in that game, having six shots, though he could not find a breakthrough.

MATCH PREDICTION: REAL SALT LAKE WIN

Real Salt Lake defeated Sporting Kansas City at home, 1-0, in May 4 in the first meeting between the sides this season. RSL have won five of their eight matches against Sporting (D1 L2, incl. playoffs) since the beginning of the 2021 season.

Real Salt Lake extended their regular-season unbeaten run to 14 games (W8 D6) with a scoreless draw at Montreal on Saturday, equaling the longest single-season run in club history (July-October 2010).

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City's 4-2 defeat to the Galaxy on Saturday was their eighth defeat in their last nine regular-season matches. Sporting have not lost nine times in a span of 10 regular-season matches in the post-shootout era (since 2000).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Sporting Kansas City – 32.2%

Draw – 25.4%

Real Salt Lake – 42.4%

CF Montreal have used their recent MLS bye week to get some injured players back to fitness, says coach Laurent Courtois.

Montreal were not in action last weekend, but kick-start the second half of their 2024 campaign against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

And Courtois revealed that the break enabled Montreal to get three strikers, who had all been injured, healthy.

Josef Martinez, Matias Coccaro and Kwadwo Opoku are now back in the fold after lay-offs, as are Mason Toye and Lassi Lappalainen.

“A big part of it was to get people healthy and to fix a little bit the morale of the troops,” Courtois said of the break. “In that sense, these past two weeks have been really beneficial.

"Having all the people together brings a whole different dynamic. Everybody wants to win his spot.”

Not that Montreal went into the break in poor form. They are unbeaten in three games, having drawn with the Philadelphia Union and Nashville SC either side of beating D.C. United 4-2.

They sit 12th in the Eastern Conference, though going up against RSL presents a stern test.

Salt Lake are top of the Western Conference with 33 points from their 17 matches. They are unbeaten in 13 games in MLS.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

CF Montreal – Sunusi Ibrahim

Sunusi Ibrahim’s goal after 49 seconds on June 1 was the sixth first-minute goal Montreal have scored in MLS play. No team have scored more goals in the opening minute of matches since Montreal joined the league in 2012.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

Arango’s 16 goals and 10 assists for the season leave him one goal away from equalling Alvaro Saborio’s single-season club goals record of 17 set in 2012 and one goal contribution away from equalling Jeff Cunningham’s single-season record of 27 set in 2006.

MATCH PREDICTION: RSL WIN

RSL are on the second-longest single-season unbeaten run in club history (after going 14 straight games without defeat in 2010). The last team to go more than 13 straight games without defeat in a single regular season was the Portland Timbers (15) in 2018.

Montreal, though, are unbeaten in three straight matches (W1 D2) following a four-match regular-season losing streak. Montreal have not gone unbeaten in four straight league matches in over a year, since winning four straight games in April-May last season.

RSL recorded a 2-1 win at Montreal in the last meeting between the sides in May 2022. It was the first away win in the nine all-time meetings between the sides.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Montreal – 30.1%

RSL – 45.1%

Draw – 24.9%

Pablo Mastroeni believes Real Salt Lake's "magic" mentality has helped them earn a reputation as comeback kings, though he is hoping for a more routine outing against the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday.

RSL fought back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with FC Dallas last Saturday, having recovered from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to beat the Colorado Rapids 5-3 one week earlier.

Mastroeni's men are now unbeaten in 11 league games and sit four points clear at the top of the Western Conference standings ahead of their midweek visit to the improving Sounders.

"It's not a surprise to me that the guys, given the scoreline, stay in there and fight," said Mastroeni. "It's a testament to the group. 

"Everyone that's a part of this club has the same mindset, and I think when you're aligned in that way, magic like that happens. 

"Obviously, we don't want it to happen too often, but I think it just shows the mental fortitude of the group."

Seattle have recorded back-to-back 2-1 wins over Phoenix Rising in the U.S. Open Cup and St. Louis City in MLS, moving within reach of the playoff places after a tough start to the year.

Boss Brian Schmetzer knows they will have to be at their very best to get anything against RSL, though.

Speaking after Saturday's win in St. Louis, Schmetzer said: "They were a little unlucky not to get a goal at the end. Our luck is changing.

"There is some momentum building but Real Salt Lake are a good team. We have to back up a good performance with another good performance against Real Salt Lake."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Seattle Sounders – Jordan Morris

Morris has scored in consecutive regular-season games for the first time since early last season. 

He only has one streak of more than two straight games with a goal in MLS, finding the net in four appearances in a row between April and May 2016.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango 

Arango's 13 goals in MLS this season put him out on his own at the top of the goalscoring charts, two clear of Christian Benteke and Luis Suarez.

Four of those goals have come in RSL's last four games, with the team netting 12 times in that span.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

Real Salt Lake extended their league-best unbeaten run to 11 regular-season games (seven wins, four draws) with their 3-3 draw at Dallas last Saturday. 

This is their longest single-season unbeaten run since a 12-match streak to begin the 2014 campaign, though that streak ended with a loss in Seattle in late May.

The Sounders have improved of late, winning consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time this year. An entertaining draw could be on the cards.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Seattle Sounders – 35.6%

Real Salt Lake – 36.6%

Draw – 27.8%

D.C. United coach Troy Lesesne feels fortunate to work with Christian Benteke, who is battling the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi for the MLS Golden Boot after a flying start to 2024.

Benteke has been in incredible form this year, scoring 11 goals in 10 MLS appearances to join Suarez and Cristian Arango at the top of the scoring charts, with Messi one behind that trio.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa man scored a hat-trick of headers last time out, helping D.C. recover from behind for a 3-2 win over Atlanta United. 

With Lesesne's former employers the New York Red Bulls visiting Audi Field on Wednesday, the D.C. boss will be hoping for more of the same.   

"He's incredible," Lesesne said of Benteke. "He's got two hat-tricks this year, he's on 11 goals now and he's just such an incredible presence in our team, even beyond scoring.

"He deserves to be talked about first. He is a handful, and he allows other players to come into the match and have dangerous opportunities themselves. I'm very lucky to work with him."

Benteke's form has helped put D.C. in the playoff picture early on this campaign, but the Red Bulls are three points clear of them, sitting third in the Eastern Conference.

They also came out on top in a thriller last week, with two late goals helping them overcome the New England Revolution 4-2.

One of their goalscorers, Elias Manoel, says the Red Bulls' ability to pick up results when not at their best will take them far this term.

"It was really important to keep the consistency because even though we had some unfavourable results, in some games we didn't lose as well," Manoel said.

"This consistency is going to be really good at the end of the competition."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

D.C. United – Christian Benteke

Against Atlanta last week, Benteke became just the second player since 2010 to score three headed goals in a single MLS game, alongside the Five Stripes' Juan Purata in 2022 (versus Toronto FC).

New York Red Bulls – Elias Manoel 

Manoel recorded both a goal and an assist as a substitute in New York's win over the Revolution last week. 

He joined Cameron Harper and Bradley Wright-Phillips as the only Red Bulls players over the last 10 seasons to come off the bench and record both a goal and assist. Will he be rewarded with a start?

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

This will be the 107th meeting between D.C. and the Red Bulls in all competitions – it is the most-played match between two MLS teams. The Red Bulls, winners of the last three meetings, have never won four straight against D.C.

D.C. have gone unbeaten through their last three games, winning two and drawing one, while scoring multiple goals in each match. An entertaining draw could be on the cards here… 

The Red Bulls are coming off a 4-2 win over New England in which they only had 33.1 per cent of possession. They have had four games with less than a third of possession and four or more goals in the last three seasons, more than every other MLS team combined.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

D.C. United – 39.1%
New York Red Bulls – 32%
Draw – 28.9% 

Greg Vanney believes the LA Galaxy are in a good spot both physically and mentally ahead of Saturday's clash with fellow Western Conference high-fliers Real Salt Lake.

The Galaxy sit third in the West through 11 matches of the season, though they have failed to win back-to-back road games against Austin FC (0-2) and the Seattle Sounders (0-0).

They are, however, unbeaten in all four of their home league games this term (two wins, two draws), and Vanney is looking forward to returning to Dignity Health Sports Park next time out.

"Physically, first and foremost, we're in a pretty good spot. We have a few guys coming back from issues that were pretty minor," Vanney said.

"It's good. We've been able to stay in that space for a while and now we're going into a busy part of the schedule we can make some choices about how we want to attack the week.

"Where are we mentally? We're good. It's nice to be home, it's a challenge to play a lot of games on the road early doors.

"We like the spot we're in and we want to keep building, but we've got to get through this tough stretch of games."

Real Salt Lake are top of the Western standings with 21 points, only losing twice in 11 league games this year.

However, they were dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup by New Mexico United on Wednesday, Pablo Mastroeni shuffling his pack for a 4-2 road loss.

"We completely tuned out," Mastroeni said after watching his team go 2-0 down within 20 minutes.

"The emotion is like, 'poor me,' and when you operate from that space, you can never think reasonably."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LA Galaxy – Gabriel Pec

The Galaxy (12 shots) and Seattle (19) combined for 31 shots in their scoreless draw last time out.

Pec – who has two goals in 10 league appearances since joining the Galaxy in the offseason – recorded six of his team's attempts, but only hit the target once. He will be targeting an improvement here.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango 

Arango is the first Real Salt Lake player to contribute to at least one goal in five straight regular-season away matches, recording four goals and five assists during his streak.

He is just the second player since the start of last season to record a goal contribution in five straight MLS away matches, after the Columbus Crew's Cucho Hernandez.

MATCH PREDICTION – LA GALAXY WIN

The Galaxy have lost only one of their last 13 home matches against Real Salt Lake (nine wins, three draws) including going unbeaten through the last seven in a row. 

The last two meetings in Carson have both ended level, though, after the Galaxy won nine of the previous 11 (one draw, one defeat).

However, Vanney's team have only lost one of their last 14 regular-season home matches dating back to last June, winning six and drawing six while averaging 2.2 goals per game throughout this run.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LA Galaxy – 44.8%

Real Salt Lake – 27.8%

Draw – 27.4%

Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni credited the collective effort of his league-leading side as they prepare to host Sporting Kansas City at America First Field for Sunday's MLS clash.

Salt Lake sit atop of the Western Conference table after a six-game undefeated streak, having overcome Philadelphia Union 2-1 in their last outing.

Alexandros Katranis provided a remarkable 89th-minute winner in that victory over the Union, with RSL not losing an MLS game since March 9 against Colorado Rapids.

"I think it is everything so far, every aspect of the team has been competitive – sometimes the offense clicks, sometimes it is the defense," Mastroeni said.

"For me, it is really the collective; from the staff, to the players, to me and the work we do every day. Scoring the first goal has been really important for us in most of the games.

"Defensively we have been a really good team, it starts at the top, though. We're getting a lot of great contributions from all around the pitch.

"When you tie that all together, we've got a great group firing on all cylinders."

Peter Vermes' Wizards were defeated 2-1 by Minnesota United in their last match, leaving them 10th in the West with just 11 points to their name after 10 games.

Kansas City head coach Vermes knows another difficult task awaits on the road this weekend.

"They are the best team in the West at the moment," Vermes said of RSL.

"They are always a tough defensive team. With the strike power they have up front, we will have to be focused and concentrated, it will be a tough match for us."

Vermes' high praise of Salt Lake comes as no surprise given Mastroeni's men have only conceded nine times this season – a joint-low in MLS.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

Cristian Arango has 16 goal contributions through 10 matches this season, equalling the most in a player’s first 10 appearances of a season in MLS history (Carlos Vela in 2019, Cobi Jones in 1998).

With eight goals in just 10 appearances so far this term, the Real Salt Lake star has already surpassed his six strikes in 2023 – and will hope to further his tally here.

Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell

Johnny Russell has scored six goals in 13 career MLS matches against Real Salt Lake (also considering playoffs), including scoring at least once against RSL in each of the last five seasons.

The Scottish winger is yet to score in league competition this year, though, failing to find the net in any of his seven appearances – though Russell has only played 90 minutes twice in that run.

MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

It will be hard to split these two sides with a draw appearing probable, despite the Opta supercomputer suggesting Real Salt Lake have the likelier chance of victory.

Sporting have never recorded back-to-back victories when visiting Salt Lake in all competitions, though they did win the last meeting between these two sides 3-2 in October.

SKC may have also lost their last outing but they have not suffered consecutive defeats across all competitions since April 2023, avoiding defeat in the match following each of its previous 14 losses (W10 D4).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Real Salt Lake win – 45.5%

Sporting Kansas City win – 26.8%

Draw – 27.7%

Jim Curtin is keen to see the Philadelphia Union retain their reputation as a tough team to play against, with his side still unbeaten this season ahead of Saturday's visit of Real Salt Lake.

The Union sit sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with three wins and four draws so far this term, their latest stalemate coming by a 2-2 scoreline against Atlanta United last time out.

While Curtin was somewhat disappointed to see the Union's three-match winning streak ended in Georgia, he is pleased by the resilience they have shown ahead of their return to Subaru Park.

"Whether people in the public think we're good or think we're bad, they will at least say we're tough to play against," Curtin said. 

"I think that unequivocally across the board, there's not a coach or general manager or fan in this league that would say we're an easy team to deal with and play against.

"Part of that is not losing, finding ways to turn losses into ties, ties into wins, and we'll look to try to continue to do that and really protect our home field."

Philadelphia face a tough test this weekend, though, against a Salt Lake team currently flying high in third in the Western Conference. 

Pablo Mastroeni's men are unbeaten in their last four games, producing their best performance of 2024 to date last time out as they thrashed the Chicago Fire 4-0 on the road. 

"I'm so excited about what we can do as a group, as players and coaches, and the onus is on us to continue to get better and really push this thing forward," Mastroeni said after that win.

"I think we've established a decent standard, and we know where we are at our best and where we are lacking, but it's testament to the work the guys are doing during the week."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Mikael Uhre

Uhre scored the Union's first goal as they fought back from two goals down to draw in Atlanta.

He has four goal involvements in MLS play this term (three goals, one assist), a tally only matched by Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza among his Union team-mates.

Real Salt Lake – Cristian Arango

Arango scored twice against the Fire last week and has now been involved in at least one goal in four straight regular-season road games, equalling the longest such streak in Real Salt Lake's history.

Might he break new ground at Subaru Park?

MATCH PREDICTION – PHILADELPHIA UNION WIN

The Union's only win in 12 all-time meetings with Real Salt Lake was a 4-1 home victory when the teams last met at Subaru Park in May 2018 (six draws, five losses). This will be the sides' first meeting on any ground since June 2019.

While the visitors are unbeaten in their last five matches (three wins, two draws), this could be their toughest test to date.

Philadelphia have only lost one of their last 41 regular-season home matches (28 wins, 12 draws), including going unbeaten through their last 16 (nine wins, seven draws), a run dating back over a year.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Philadelphia Union – 57.8%

Real Salt Lake – 17.3%

Draw – 24.9%

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