Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — A week ago, everyone figured Real Salt Lake would hardly have to lift a cleat to get past Toronto FC, the worst team in Major League Soccer.
The Canadian squad came into Rio Tinto Stadium without a win or a tie, just six losses, yet made RSL work until the 90th minute to get the win on a goal by a rookie reserve.
This week, Real is playing another team from the Eastern Division, the fourth-place New England Revolution, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto.
Fourth-place is a lot better than 10th place, but it's a little deceiving because the MLS Eastern Conference is much weaker than the West. If New England was in the West, it would be in second-to-last place.
Still, after the close call a week ago, New England will have Real's full attention Saturday evening. Plus, on Wednesday night, the Revolution knocked off Colorado on the road, 2-1.
"It's an opponent that has some pieces that we haven't seen before," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "It's a team that has a good coach, a team that's establishing its identity and a team that's very hungry to succeed. So we need to be prepared for them."
Kreis said his team is fortunate in the fact that it played the Revolution in the preseason, a 2-1 loss in Tucson, Ariz., in late February.
"We saw a few of the new players so maybe we know a few of their tendencies already," Kreis said.
New England is not a very offensive team, having scored just seven goals in eight games. Forward Saer Sene is the guy to watch out for as he has three of them, as well as two assists. He also has twice as many shots on goal as anyone on the team with 10.
Kreis said he feels positive about his team, despite its recent stretch that includes two losses, a draw and the close escape against Toronto.
"We feel confident, but we also feel we have a lot of improving to do," he said. "We're in a good place in a lot of ways because we haven't been at our best yet. We're still an improving team that's trying to get better and better."
Kreis is happy with the health of his squad, saying it's the healthiest it has been in a long time.
"We've got 26 players on our roster and 25 are fully fit and ready to go and one guy who's nearing full fitness as well," he said. "So we're as healthy as we've been all year."
Real has received help lately from players such as Jonny Steele, who scored the winning goal against Toronto and Sebastian Velasquez, who has played solid minutes in five games he's played this year.
However, Kreis didn't want to single them or any other players out, saying, "I'm really pleased with what all of our new players have brought us. I'm pleased where we are so far with our depth."
He is excited that because of his team's depth, a lot of players will see action in the busy upcoming schedule that will include three games in eight days with a game at Chicago on Wednesday, followed by a home game against Seattle on Saturday.
"There's going to be opportunities for us to rotate the lineup a bit again," Kreis said. "I think a lot of our players, if not all of our players, should see minutes over the next three weeks or so."
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