RSL Roundup: After rest, it's back to work
SANDY, Utah — After a week that finally saw Real Salt Lake avoid travel, goals by Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales propelled Real Salt Lake to an historic, streak-stretching, streak-busting victory over FC Dallas last Saturday.
Perhaps it was the rest, but the team showed a return to form — especially in the second half of the game. Head coach Jason Kreis said that his team was “close, very close” to reaching the form that he wants from them as the MLS Cup Playoffs loom.
But there will be no rest for the weary. A midweek home encounter against Cruz Azul will decide which team will win Group A in the CONCACAF Champions League. The reigning champs will then make the short flight to Colorado for the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup against the Rapids on Saturday.
The victory on Saturday meant that RSL went the entire season without a loss at home, and it extended their home unbeaten streak to 25 games in regular-season league play.
“It’s a great achievement,” Kreis said. “It’s something that will go down in the history books. We can be proud of it. There have been some very good things that have happened to and for our team this season, but for me there is a whole lot left.”
The win also ran RSL’s home unbeaten streak in all competitions to 31 games (17-0-8 in MLS regular season, 1-0-0 playoffs, 2-0-0 in the CCL and 2-0-1 in international exhibitions). Their aggregate score line over that stretch is 62-15.
“It’s just another feather in the cap for this team – just another way to win,” defender Nat Borchers said of the team after their victory over FCD. “When you are a good team you find ways to tie, to get results sometimes, but when you are a great team you find ways to win.”
Speaking of the Supporters’ Shield, it seems like the LA Galaxy just can’t seem to clinch. That’s good news for Real Salt Lake, who sit just a point back of LA and can capture the Shield with a victory coupled with an LA draw or loss, or a tie and an LA loss. This is despite the fact that at several points during the season, it has appeared that the award was likely out of their reach.
“It speaks volumes to the club, to the coaches, and to the players,” Nick Rimando said. "We believe in ourselves."
All eight playoff participants have been determined, but it turns out that the last week of the season is still important. Final standings – and postseason matchups – still hang in the balance.
If RSL take more points out of their match with Colorado than LA can get out of their meeting with FC Dallas, the reigning champs will add the Shield and a Western Conference title to their trophy case. That’s where the certainties end, though; depending on how things shake out in other matches, RSL could end up facing FCD, the San Jose Earthquakes or the Seattle Sounders in the first round.
“When you’re a guy that’s 5-foot-7-inches on a good day, you have to jump pretty high to out jump a guy that’s 5-foot-10-inches,” Ned Grabavoy said light-heartedly of his header in front of Hoops defender Ugo Ihemulu.
During the match, FCD goalkeeper Dario Sala came off his line frequently. Did that contribute to Grabavoy’s goal?
“Yeah, definitely – I just kind of lifted it over him,” the midfielder responded. “And I think it was one of those one’s that’s tough. He sees that Ugo’s probably beat, and starts to come but can’t get there in time. And it went over his head and dropped in.”