SANDY — Nothing is a foregone conclusion in soccer — just ask Barcelona and Real Madrid — but if ever a match screamed inevitable blowout, that's what's in store this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Fresh off rallying for an impressive point in Dallas on Wednesday to cap a three-game road trip, Real Salt Lake is back home to host the worst team in MLS. Three points seem like a foregone conclusion against Toronto FC at 7 p.m.
By no means is RSL taking the visitors lightly as the players haven't forgotten what happened when winless Chivas USA came to town last month.
"They weren't the best team in the world, and they rose to the occasion against us, and I think that's going to happen with Toronto. They're fighting for their jobs," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
This match is different though. The Chivas team seemed like pushovers on paper because it couldn't — and still can't — score goals, but everyone knew coach Robin Fraser's team knew how to defend well.
Toronto FC hasn't figured out how to take care of business at either end of the field. Through six games, Toronto (0-6-0) has scored just four goals while conceding 13. Its minus-9 goal differential is the worst in MLS.
With another loss, Toronto would join the 1999 Kansas City Wizards as the only MLS teams to begin a season with seven straight losses. Earning a point against RSL seems bleak. Including a CONCACAF Champions League group game in 2010, Toronto is 0-4-0 all-time at Rio Tinto Stadium with a minus-9 goal differential.
"That makes them that much more dangerous. We don't know what they're going to throw at us. We know they have a lot on the line, nothing to really lose right now. They're going to go all out," said Rimando.
Real Salt Lake will likely be buoyed by the return of Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola to the starting lineup. The duo should be well rested after serving their one-game, red-card suspensions on Wednesday, and fresh legs will be critical for a group that left it all on the field just a few nights earlier in the Texas heat.
"We did finish off the difficult road stint with a positive result. To come back from another difficult circumstance and another difficult call is important to us," said RSL coach Jason Kreis in reflecting on the Dallas penalty kick.
Looking ahead to this weekend, Kreis said it's important for his players not to get caught up in Toronto's struggles.
"The most unimportant thing to us right now is who the opponent is. We've had a difficult three matches here, after a difficult road stretch against three very good teams, and now we come home to play in front of our fans. So we need to be very, very focused on just doing our best and not worrying who is standing across from us on the field," he said.
Entering the weekend, Real Salt Lake is tied with San Jose for first place in the Western Conference with 16 points. The 'Quakes have played two fewer games though, so it's important coach Kreis' team takes cares of business and picks up the full three points at home.