Real Salt Lake boss Pablo Mastroeni says the team must prepare for its upcoming games to resemble “dog fights” as the battle for a postseason spot hots up.

RSL was beaten 2-0 at Western Conference leaders Los Angeles FC last time out, and though it currently occupies a playoff place, sits just three points ahead of the eighth-placed LA Galaxy entering Saturday’s match against visiting D.C. United.

Mastroeni highlighted the importance of recovering from the trip to California in quick fashion.

“We took on quite a lot of pressure and there were some other opportunities they had that I thought were more dangerous (than the goals),” he said. “It was a bit of a tough one to swallow.

“These next few games are going to be dog fights, as you can see in the table, everyone is scrambling up and down. I think for us it’s really about recovering from a really difficult week of travel and play, and I think the guys left it all on the field. It was never going to be easy but I think now, with a couple of days of rest, this next game is going to be huge for us.”

D.C. United is not involved in the playoff scramble, sitting six points adrift at the bottom of the Eastern standings after enduring a difficult season.

Wayne Rooney was the man chosen to rebuild the capital team, but the former Manchester United striker has won just two of his nine games at the helm.

Nevertheless, Rooney has been encouraged by his team’s progress and is excited about the future.

“We’ve definitely moved forward from when I first came in,” Rooney said. “Even some of the games which we’ve lost, I have found positives. The lads are starting to understand more what I want from them both in training and on matchday. Slowly, I am seeing the team develop.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Real Salt Lake – Sergio Cordova

Having scored a team-high eight goals from his 23 starts this season, the Venezuelan forward will be keen to take advantage of D.C.’s shortcomings in a match the hosts are expected to win.

D.C. United – David Ochoa

D.C. goalkeeper Ochoa kept his first clean sheet of the season (in four appearances) against the Colorado Rapids last time out, and may need to be in top form once more to deny the playoff hopefuls.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– D.C. United beat Real Salt Lake 5-0 the last time the sides met in March 2019 in Washington, D.C. United won on its first visit to Salt Lake, a 3-1 win in 2005, but is winless in 10 visits since (D2 L8).

– Real Salt Lake has won just three of its last 13 MLS matches (D5 L5) following a 2-0 defeat at Los Angeles FC on Sunday. RSL has not lost consecutive matches all season, one of three teams (also Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls) without a losing streak in 2022.

– D.C. United has avoided defeat in consecutive games (W1 D1) for the first time since early May. D.C.’s last away match, a 2-1 win at New York City FC, ended a six-match road losing streak.

– Eastern Conference teams have not found much success at Real Salt Lake, with RSL going unbeaten in its last 16 home matches against the East (W10 D6), though the last four have ended in draws. Since 2008, RSL has only lost seven of 79 home matches against Eastern opposition (W49 D23, including playoffs).

– D.C. United’s scoreless draw with Colorado on Sunday was the 13th time it has failed to score in a match this season, tied with the Chicago Fire for most such games in MLS. D.C. has scored twice in each of its last two road games, however, after going five in a row without a goal on its travels prior to the last two games.