Real Salt Lake isn't blinded by early big match against Sporting Kansas City
SANDY — It's undoubtedly the biggest game in Major League Soccer so far this year, but don't tell that to Real Salt Lake players and coaches.
RSL travels to Kansas City for Saturday's game (6:30 p.m. MDT) against a Sporting Kansas City club that is unbeaten at 5-0, having given up just one goal all season. Meanwhile, RSL owns the second-best record in the league at 5-1.
It is the only meeting between the two clubs and could be a preview of the MLS Cup title game at the end of the season. But to RSL, it's just the next game.
"It's a big game as far as the records we both have, but it's still worth only three points, last time I checked," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It is what it is, another game early in the season against a very difficult opponent. We're going to do our best to see if we can give them a good challenge."
Kreis said if his team had started 2-4 or 1-5 he wouldn't be in a panic mode right now, so he tries not to get overly excited about being 5-1.
Real midfielder Kyle Beckerman said it might be a big game for the fans and media, but not for the players.
"For me it's just another game," he said. "It's just a great matchup between two teams that got off to a really good start. We just want to keep that strong start going."
RSL defender Chris Wingert said it's more important to be the best team in October rather than April.
"I'm sure it will be talked about afterwards, but I don't think we're too concerned about being the best team right now and neither are they," he said. "Don't get me wrong, we'd like to be, but it's much more important to be the best team later on."
One player who at least acknowledged the game between the teams with the best MLS records right now was big was veteran defender Nat Borchers.
When asked if it was possible to have a big game this early in the season, he replied, "Yeah I think we're seeing it this weekend."
"We look at it as a big challenge to play away against a team that has really dominated everybody else in the league this year," Borchers added. "I know it's going to be a really tough challenge for us."
So far this year, RSL is 2-0 in road games with victories over the L.A. Galaxy and the Portland Timbers.
NEW PLAYER: Real Salt Lake announced the acquisition of rookie defender Chris Estridge via a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday. In return, RSL will send a conditional 2013 draft selection.
As part of the deal, RSL and Estridge agreed to a four-year contract, but financial terms were not disclosed.
The 22-year-old Estridge was selected by Vancouver in the second round (21st overall) of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft after being an NSCAA first-team all-American at Indiana University after transferring from Wake Forest.
INJURIES: Two players who were injured in the 1-0 victory over Montreal on April 4, Javier Morales and Ned Grabavoy, are doubtful for Saturday's game according to team officials.
Morales participated in some drills at Wednesday's practice, but Kreis said it was "50-50" whether he'd play or not. As for Grabavoy, he didn't even make it to practice and Kreis said he was unlikely to play.
With those two players out, 18-year-old Luis Gil will start again in the midfield this week for RSL. If the other players had been healthy, Gil would have gone to Portland for the week to train with the U.S. U-20 team.
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