RSL notebook: Champs wary of Cunningham
LEHI, Utah - When Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas take to the field on Saturday, there will be some familiarity there.
Three of RSL's coaches, most notably former Burn star Jason Kreis, spent time playing in Dallas during their careers.
Current Dallas assistant John Ellinger was Real Salt Lake's first-ever coach before Kreis took over for him during the 2007 season.
“He’s someone that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and I was very appreciative for him bringing me here," Kreis said. "He was directly, and I think almost solely, responsible for my coming from Dallas to here. Obviously this has been a very good situation for me. I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for that.”
Dallas also have two former RSL players, Atiba Harris and Jeff Cunningham, currently playing key roles for their squad.
Cunningham, of course, will be the one to watch. He is gunning for the all-time MLS goalscoring lead.
“I think it’s always fantastic to play against a guy like Jeff,” RSL defender Nat Borchers said. “He is so unpredictable, so good with the ball at his feet. He can make you look stupid if you take a play off. We’re going to have to be really switched on in the back and make sure that we don’t give him anything.”
The prior loss at Dallas
Back in July, Real Salt Lake went to Dallas and they were handed a rare loss. The 2-0 defeat was RSL's only one since April.
“We went down there and played a real defensive formation and didn’t get enough out of it,” Borchers said.
WATCH: Kreis discusses loss
“There were some tactical decisions made by the coaching staff that may have affected that result,” Kreis said. “I think there were some decisions made by the players, as well within the game, and I think they’ve learned from that and embraced that. And I hope that we can prove ourselves correct.”
“We probably won’t play too defensively at home,” he added, jokingly.
Gearing up for playoffs
Aside from Supporters' Shield and playoff positioning concerns, Real Salt Lake also look for this match — and the season finale in Colorado — as a way to get ready for the postseason, Kreis said.
“Last year I felt like our guys needed to be grinded a little bit – to be reminded of the hard work that needs to be put into succeeding in the way that we want to play," Kreis said. "This year my concern is the opposite in that [we need to make sure] we’re well rested enough so that we can be mentally very focused and physically very alert to do the things that are necessary.”
Lack of Scoring
If there is a chink in the armor for Real Salt Lake, it has been that their scoring has dropped off considerable in the last half of the season.
The team scored 27 goals over the first 14 games of the season, but has managed just 14 scores over the last 14 games – a mere goal per game.
“We’ve maybe lacked a little bit in the final third the last few games, but we’re going to try to focus on that,” Borchers said, adding that the RSL defense is equally important to the outcome. “If they can’t score, we’re in a good situation given the fact that they have so much offensive firepower.”