It would be hard for the results to get much worse for D.C. (5-14-3), which hasn't won in its last seven matches and begins the weekend 13 points beneath the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
And with a quartet of additions headlined by U.S. national team wide man Paul Arriola, there is pressure for improved play to come almost immediately.
"Does it heighten expectations? Hopefully," D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said Thursday. "It's time for that. And this is the start of that process."
Arriola, midfielder Russell Canouse and forward Bruno Miranda have all received their International Transfer Certificates and work visas, according to The Washington Post, and would be eligible to play Saturday.
Arriola is the most likely to see extended action since he's fully fit, having played with the U.S. in July's CONCACAF Gold Cup, and with his former club team, Mexico's Club Tijuana, in a game a week ago.
He would probably play a wide midfield spot as D.C. attempts to win its first match since June. United drew with Eastern Conference leader Toronto FC 1-1 last weekend in a match that felt like a moral victory.
Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake (7-5-12) makes its last visit to a venue that has always posed problems after settling for three draws during a three-match homestand.
The Claret and Cobalt are winless in nine previous games at RFK Stadium, losing six and drawing three at the stadium that will be closing after this season.
In their last visit two seasons ago, RSL suffered a 6-4 loss as the teams combined for the most goals allowed in the league since 2010.
But D.C. have struggled to score everywhere in 2017, including being shut out in six of their 11 home matches so far.
That mirrors Salt Lake's recent frustration in a 0-0 draw last weekend against a Houston Dynamo side that played the last half-hour of the game with 10 men after a red card.
"We didn't do enough in transition to break them down and get behind them before they got in their shape," Real Salt lake coach Mike Petke said on mlssoccer.com. "We're going to have play the way we're playing and push it a bit more without leaving ourselves vulnerable."