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RSL struggling on both ends

Expect changes in starting lineup for San Jose game

Published: Monday, April 25 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Clint Mathis never has been afraid to speak his mind, and he definitely wasn't about to change following Real Salt Lake's 3-0 drubbing in Dallas on Saturday. Just seconds after the loss, the RSL midfielder slipped on a headset and talked candidly with KSL-TV commentators Bill Riley and Dave Dir.

Mathis questioned whether the team had the stuff it takes to win. "I don't think it has anything to do with our ability the players have out there."

Many teams lose on the road in MLS, but it's the way RSL lost in the Cotton Bowl that was so troublesome for Mathis and his teammates. Mathis said they were losing every second 50-50 ball and every tackle. It easily could have been a six-goal loss if the woodwork had been a little kinder to FC Dallas. Carlos Ruiz hit the left post in the first half, while Eddie Johnson and Ramon Nunoz both banged close-range shots off the crossbar in the second.

For the past two months, Real Salt Lake's players and coaches have been telling people they might be an expansion team by title but not in personnel. They probably didn't sway any doubters in Dallas.

In an effort to inject life into his team, don't be surprised if RSL coach John Ellinger makes several tactical changes for this Saturday's home game against San Jose.

One necessary change has nothing to do with lighting a fire under his defense. By receiving a red card in the 73rd minute, Salt Lake defender Eddie Pope is automatically suspended for Salt Lake's next match. Nelson Akwari is the probable choice to replace Pope on the back four.

Marlon Rojas' starting spot could be in jeopardy as well. The left fullback was routinely beaten by Dallas' trio of forwards, and Ellinger may or may not give Matt Behncke another shot this weekend instead. Behncke started the first two games but was benched at halftime of the Los Angeles game.

In the middle, Brian Kamler should be ready to start again at holding midfielder after a groin injury limited his training this week. Newcomer Leslie Fitzpatrick started in Kamler's place against Dallas, and played decently.

The biggest change could come on the wings. Just 20 minutes into Saturday's game, Ellinger switched the largely ineffective Luke Kreamalmeyer from the left side of the midfield to the right, and then replaced him at the half with the experienced Evan Whitfield. Salt Lake was a much more dangerous team going forward with Whitfield on the field.

Whitfield, who was hobbled in the first two weeks of the season with a sprained ankle, probably played his way into a starting spot against San Jose with his performance.

Up top, don't be surprised if Ellinger makes a change as well.

When Ellinger and general manager Steve Pastorino were putting the expansion MLS team together in the offseason, based on the talent they were acquiring, it looked as though Real Salt Lake had the makings of an offensive juggernaut. Well, four games into the season, RSL has scored just two goals — tied with the MetroStars for fewest in the league. Its goal differential of minus-4 is second only to Chivas USA's minus-6. No other team in the league is worse than minus-1.

Andy Williams' groin injury is partially to blame for the slow start, an injury the attacking midfielder suffered in the eighth minute of RSL's second game. There's a slim chance he'll be back this week.

Regardless of Williams' availability, Ellinger may give Jordan Cila an opportunity at forward in place of Dipsy Selolwane. As a rookie last year, Cila scored four goals in 15 starts with Colorado.

"We can't look back on this and mope and moan about it. We've just got to get through it and know we have a home game next week," Mathis said.

ENDLINES: RSL's reserve team will have an exhibition game against BYU's men's soccer team at BYU, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for children.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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