LEHI — Following last Saturday's loss to Seattle, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis was critical of most of his attacking players for being too hesitant to take on defenders. He praised Fabian Espindola for doing so, but said more players needed to follow his example.
In the build-up to this weekend's match against visiting Vancouver, Kreis acknowledges that asking his players to make that mental shift isn't easy.
"It's not in a lot of our players' natures. We have done such a good job of sharing the ball and circulating the ball, sometimes it becomes ingrained in the players that everything needs to be one- or two-touch," said Kreis. "There are moments now in every single game where it doesn't need to be one- or two-touch."
That role usually belonged to Javier Morales, while everyone else focused on funneling the ball through him with one- and two-touch passing. Without Morales though, Kreis acknowledged that collectively everyone needs to be a little more creative on the ball.
"It needs to be somebody turning up the field and running the ball forward, or willing to make that killer pass that gets in behind or be willing to run at a defender to break things down a little bit," said Kreis. "We're just not recognizing those instances early enough or often enough yet. But I think it will come if we continue to do all the right things."
Kreis doesn't want his players to deviate from the style that his become Real Salt Lake's trademark, he just hopes to enhance it.
THINNING OUT: This weekend might be the most shorthanded Real Salt Lake will be all season. Not only are Alvaro Saborio, Arturo Alvarez and Will Johnson gone on national team duty, and Javier Morales and Paulo Jr. hurt, but Jamison Olave is suspended because of last week's red card.
Those absences leave Kreis with only 16 available field players to choose from this weekend, and two of them — Donny Toia and Artur Aghasyan — have never played in an MLS match.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Jean Alexandre is the first to admit that he could've played better in his first MLS start at forward last weekend. He also believes a lot of his problems are quick fixes.
"I thought I did all right. First half maybe I tried to get a little too fancy, tried to lay everything off one touch especially with the rainy surface," said Alexandre. "I should've made more two touches and held the ball. I thought I came out really well in the second half and had a couple half chances. There's only room for improvement."
With a depleted front line, Alexandre figures to get the start once again against Vancouver.
MISSING BEAST: The absence of Olave will leave a big void in Real Salt Lake's defense against Vancouver, but one Nick Rimando isn't all worried about filling.
He's confident in both Chris Schuler and Rauwshan McKenzie regardless of who gets the nod.
"He's a big part of this team, I think everybody knows that, but Schuler's stepped up and proven himself. Everybody's comfortable with Schuler back there or Rawshawn. We just got to pay attention to details on the defensive side," said Rimando.
Schuler has started in place of Olave three times this year, all on the road. RSL is 2-1 during those three matches with wins at San Jose and New England and a loss at Portland.
PATIENTLY WAITING: Luis Gil only played five minutes against Seattle, but he contributed an assist on a throw-in to Nelson Gonzalez.
With Real Salt Lake extremely shorthanded heading into a busy June, Gil would love more playing time. He's also realistic though.
"I know I've got to learn, I know that patience is the big thing for me," said Gil.
At the same time, the 17-year-old has made such tremendous strides since his rookie year in 2010, he's definitely a legitimate option coming off RSL's shortened bench.
"My first year was kind of just a learning experience," said Gil. "Now I'm more comfortable with the ball. I'm a little more familiar with how the team plays, and with the coach giving me some minutes I'm a little more confident."