D.C. United is spitting mad. The defending Supporters Shield winners have lost three of four to open the 2008 MLS season, including a 4-0 drubbing at Real Salt Lake two weekends ago.

With RSL making such a quick return visit to the nation's capital tonight, it expects a hungry and vengeful opponent.

"We know we're going to be against the full force of D.C. United," said Real coach Jason Kreis.

RSL defender Nat Borchers, the team's most consistent player so far this season, agreed entirely.

"They're going to be out for us for sure ... . I've already read some of the things they've been saying in the press and I know Tommy Soehn, their coach, has already lit a fire, they're going to be ready for us for sure," said Borchers.

Kickoff for RSL's lone visit to RFK Stadium is set for 5:30 p.m., with the match being televised on KSL at 6:30 p.m.

Duplicating the four-goal win — its most lopsided triumph in team history — seems like an impossible task for RSL (1-2-1). That doesn't mean a win is out of the question. Even though D.C. United (1-3-0) was fatigued in the previous encounter with a match only 72 hours earlier, and therefore rested two important starters, RSL was opportunistic and jumped on the visitors early.

A similar aggressive approach at RFK Stadium might pay dividends, unlike the conservative approach RSL utilized in the opening half of a 1-0 loss to Toronto last weekend.

"Last Saturday we just made the mistake of sitting back too much, so I think we need to play a little bit more of our game which is possession soccer," said Borchers.

Real Salt Lake owns a 3-3-1 record over the past three season against D.C. United, the only team in MLS it doesn't have a losing record against. Most of that success, however, has come at home.

In three previous trips to RFK Stadium, RSL is 0-2-1 including a 2-1 loss last September.

Including two road losses this year already, Salt Lake's record away from Rice-Eccles Stadium now stands at 6-33-10. Kreis doesn't concern himself too much with that troubled past.

"I think it's easy for us because we've been here a long time, to lump in the road troubles of Real Salt Lake," said Kreis. "(But) this is a brand new team ... for me it's two matches and not years past."

According to Borchers, it's imperative for RSL to match D.C. United's work rate. He fully expects the home side to come out fired up, going all out for every ball. If it doesn't respond, RSL could be on the opposite side of a four-goal drubbing.

"Going into D.C., we have to keep in mind that they're very offensive, but we play well when we go at teams," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando, who spent five years with D.C. United prior to joining RSL.

RSL's line-up will have a decidedly different look today compared to the one D.C. United saw two weeks ago. Midfielder Nate Sturgis and striker Fabian Espindola or both out with hamstring injuries, while defender Matias Mantilla is questionable with a knee injury.

Ian Joy's status is also up in the air after several disappointing performances this year. His benching could lead to rookie Tony Beltran's first-ever MLS start.

E-mail: jedward@desnews.com