Real Salt Lake wary of FC Dallas ahead of two-game set

Kreis looking for team to get better at defending set pieces

LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas are set to play two matches
against each other in quick succession: a Saturday game at Rio Tinto
Stadium (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online)
followed by a US Open Cup quarterfinal at Pizza Hut Park on July 12.
The two teams are familiar with each other, squaring off four times —
including twice in the 2010 Western Conference semifinals — since last
October 16.

But that doesn’t mean RSL head coach Jason Kreis knows what his counterpart, Schellas Hyndman, is cooking up.

“I’ve been thinking about it, and all I can do is say, ‘What might I do
in that situation?’” Kreis said of Hyndman’s potential scheming. “But
Schellas and I are two completely different coaches, and so it doesn’t
behoove me to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it.” 

Despite the differences between the coaches, there are still eerie
similarities between the two clubs. Both teams lost their key engines
when David Ferreira and Javier Morales sustained serious injuries within
a few days of each other earlier in the season. 

“I think that we were put a little more under duress by losing Javier
than they were by losing David,” said Kreis, who believes that Morales
had more direct involvement than Ferreira, who often filled more of a
withdrawn forward role. 

However, Kreis is quick to give credit for how his opponent (and his
own team) have overcome the loss of their respective stars.

“They’ve got guys all over the park that have stepped up their game big
time, with [Fabián] Castillo, [Marvin] Chaáez, [Brek] Shea, Eric
Alexander — everybody around has contributed,” Kreis said. “In some
ways, we’ve gotten contributions ourselves. It just hasn’t been as
statistically oriented."

Kreis also singled out one individual player for the sustained
excellence of FC Dallas: Shea. The 21-year-old midfielder has eight
goals this season, tied for second in the league.

“The first time I saw him play I was a huge fan of his, with his size,
speed and strength, and left-footed,” Kreis said of Shea. “He has all of
the tools to be a top professional in our league, and a top player on
the national team. It’s taken him a long time to put the whole package
together, but now recently he’s added confidence I think game in and
game out. I think some of that has to do with maturity and consistency
of learning how to be a pro.”

Shea could cause RSL concern in one area of their game that has
suffered recently: Set piece defending. In their most recent outing — a
3-3 draw against the New England Revolution on Monday — Salt Lake gave
up all their goals from dead-ball situations.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, and say that probably two-thirds
of the goals that we’ve allowed this year have come off of dead ball
situations,” Kreis said. “And so we continue to harp on that and focus
on it. When we get the guys to buy into that and really be focused on
every dead-ball situation, we do extremely well. When they slip from
that just a little bit, that’s all it takes.

“It’s completely a matter of focus and for the players to buy into the
messages that we’re giving,” added the RSL coach.  “We’re still giving
the messages. We have a coach [for whom] that’s his particular area of
focus: defending dead balls. We’re focused on it, we just need them to
focus on it.”

In the midst of it all, Kreis feels like his team is starting to cope better with the absence of Morales.  

“I feel like my team has playing well now for five, six games in a
row,” the coach said. “Maybe the goal scoring hasn’t been there the way
that it was last year, but I’m not so sure it ever needs to be.”