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Whitecaps FC-Real Salt Lake Preview

AP - Sports

After opening the season with the franchise's best start, Real Salt Lake has since fallen on tougher times due to a feeble offense.

The club hopes a home-heavy schedule can spur a turnaround, beginning with Saturday night's matchup against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

After scoring 23 goals during a 6-0-5 start, RSL (7-4-7) has found the back of the net just four times during a 1-4-2 stretch.

Last Saturday saw Salt Lake suffer a 1-0 road loss to Los Angeles with its scoring drought in open play growing to 337 minutes. The club's last non-penalty kick goal came off the foot of Luke Mulholland in a 3-1 loss to Portland on June 7.

RSL continues to miss Alvaro Saborio, who scored six goals in 10 matches before suffering a broken foot that's sidelined him for the last eight games. He's expected to miss at least two more months.

Leading scorer Joao Plata has scored once in his last five games after tallying six goals over his first eight matches.

Salt Lake hopes playing five of six matches at home helps inspire better play. The team is 4-1-3 at home this season.

"This is a time where you can really start to gain some momentum, pick up some points in a hurry," said defender Nat Borchers, who has started 17 of 18 matches. "They're going to be tough games, but especially with Vancouver playing mid-week, it's a game where we're going to have to come out with a lot of energy and passion and with our home crowd behind us, it should be a nice night for us."

RSL has never lost in five home tilts against Vancouver, though it played to a disappointing 2-all draw against the visiting Whitecaps on April 26.

Plata and Saborio staked Salt Lake to a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes. However, Nicolas Mezquida got Vancouver on the board in the 86th minute and Sebastian Fernandez scored the equalizer in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

"They really took it to us in that second half of that game," Borchers said. "We're going to have to really be aware of their front five, very talented attacking type of players and we're going to have to punish them when they commit numbers forward."

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando is one clean sheet away from tying Kevin Hartman's all-time regular-season league record of 112.

The Whitecaps (6-4-8) are 1-2-3 in their last six matches and will be playing for the third time in a span of eight days.

Darren Mattocks scored his third goal of the season in the 50th minute Wednesday at Toronto but Vancouver surrendered the equalizer in the 64th minute in a 1-all draw.

"I'm going to say I think we deserved three points, but the reality is sometimes you don't get what you deserve," coach Carl Robinson said. "I think it was a very professional performance from us."

Vancouver scoring leader Pedro Morales is without a goal in five straight matches, though he's assisted on a goal in each of the last three.

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