Real Salt Lake stresses big picture during 3-game slump
By martin renzhofer
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jul 03 2012 06:48PM
Sandy • Team. Team. Team.
Oh yes, patience, too.
The messages coming from Real Salt Lake is that of one team together, fighting through a short patch of poor results with the knowledge that it is a long MLS season, one that begins in February and concludes in October.
Over the long haul, a three-match losing streak, including a loss to conference leader San Jose, may just be a bump in the road.
"We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been around for a long time," RSL midfielder Will Johnson said prior to Wednesday’s home game against Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium. "We understand what the business is about — results over a season and not over a week or two. We’re trying to stay positive and together. We’ve got each other’s backs, and that’s the most important thing."
At least RSL is facing a Seattle team experiencing its own string of trouble, having gone winless through its last eight games. The Sounders’ troubles began May 12 when RSL left CenturyLink Field 1-0 winners.
Real, already having played 18 league games, the most in MLS so far, faces another stretch of two games in one week. Another Pacific Northwest opponent, Portland, travels to Rio Tinto on Saturday.
Yet, despite the recent struggles, helped along by injuries to the defensive back four, RSL (10-6-2) still sits second in the Western Conference with 32 points and is third overall in the race for the Supporters Shield. Seattle (7-5-5) sits third in the conference.
Despite three straight losses, including a 2-0 defeat at Columbus on Saturday, if someone had told RSL’s players at the beginning of the season that they would have this record at this time, they’d take it.
"Absolutely," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman, returning from a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. "We’ve just got to keep on working hard. We have a great chance the next two weeks with Seattle, Portland and San Jose again."
The key, according to Beckerman, is for RSL to remain focused on improvement and not get trapped into short-term thinking. The team will emerge from hard times.
"Everybody wants to crown us champions 10 games in, and it’s the same thing when lose three straight, they want to say we’re no good," Beckerman said. "We’ll just try to keep doing the right things."
Attitude is important, yes. But having a healthy Jamison Olave and Ned Grabavoy will also help. Both players may start or see extended time Wednesday.
Practices have been upbeat, and the general mood during workouts has remained positive.
"Particularly today, it was great. The guys are really up for this match," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "We should have another huge crowd here in support of us. A July 4 game, there’s going to be a lot of emotion involved and we want to do well. We feel we owe our fans that.
"After our last two home matches, I’m hopeful that there’s not a little extra energy, I’m hoping there’s a lot of extra energy … not only from the team itself, but from staff and entire stadium as well. We’ve always said that we’re in this together, and we feel like our fans are a part of us, part of our family. Now we, and I, ask every fan to bring something extra tomorrow night."