Jason Kreis doesn't get why there's so much "dooms day" chatter about Real Salt Lake lately.
Most definitely his team has struggled with a 1-4 record in its last five, but he's very quick to point out that RSL is tied for the sixth-best record in MLS and has played fewer games than everyone else in the league.
"I still believe in this group, and I still think when we get players back and healthy and competition for every spot in the 11 and the 18, then we'll be right back where we belong," said Kreis.
Despite the optimism from its coach, RSL is going through a very difficult stretch and a playoff berth that once seemed like a foregone conclusion isn't quite so secure any more. If the playoffs started today RSL would be safely in as the second of four wildcard teams, but there are three teams outside the playoff picture all within five points.
One of them is Chivas USA, who RSL faces at the Home Depot Center tonight at 8:30 p.m.
At the moment, the Goats don't seem like much of a threat with five fewer points than RSL and three more games played. A win tonight, though, would make things much more interesting heading into September.
The players don't concern themselves much with the big picture yet, they're just focused on getting a result at Chivas.
"Right now we haven't had the best results, but if you spread those out during the season, it doesn't look as bad. I think we're in a good spot. We're still fine, the guys' confidence is still there. But we do have to get some results, and we've got to get some results on the road," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
During its recent slide, three of RSL's four losses have come on the road — including last weekend's heart breaker at Houston.
The backline should get a boost with the likely return of Jamison Olave to the starting lineup. The reigning MLS Defender of the Year has missed five straight games with a knee injury, and the defense has suffered without him, conceding eight goals. His return is an immediate upgrade defensively, but Kreis believes the bigger issue is the attention to detail by everyone else.
Against Houston last week, Kreis said two of the three goals allowed "came down to the fundamentals of how we defend, and not getting the job done." The third was on a corner kick in which Alvaro Saborio lost his mark, and Bobby Boswell scored.
"Those are mistakes born out of a lack of attention to detail," said Kreis.
RSL could be catching Chivas USA at an opportune time with the Goats coming off a mid-week loss at Portland.
Tonight's game is the first between the teams since Marcos Mondaini broke Javier Morales' ankle back on May 7. Mondaini has started 16 of 26 games this year, including a 90-minute performance at Portland on Wednesday. With the potential emotion surrounding the match, Chivas coach Robin Fraser might opt to rest the forward against Real Salt Lake But RSL's players insist there's no animosity heading into the match.
"I wouldn't say there's any particularly bad blood. I don't think anybody wants to injure a player at anytime," said defender Tony Beltran, who added that given the nature of the playoff race, the match may get physical and RSL won't shy away from it.