Real Salt Lake will use long break to get healthy, get better

By Dan Rasmussen

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, May 13 2012 9:44 p.m. MDT

Real Salt Lake's Fabian EspiŽndola, far right, celebrates scoring a goal with teammates, from left, Alvaro Saborio, Luis Gil and Chris Schuler during the second half of play in a MLS soccer match, Saturday, May 12, 2012, in Seattle. Real Salt Lake won the match 1-0. (AP PHOTO/Stephen Brashear)

STEPHEN BRASHEAR, AP

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SEATTLE — Up until now, the games have come thick and fast for league-leading Real Salt Lake.

Nobody in MLS has played more league games — 13 — than RSL, highlighted by the fact the club has already played three games within the span of seven days on three occasions.

Salt Lake, however, is finally getting a break — and a long one at that.

RSL wrapped up its latest three-games-in-seven-days gauntlet in the best possible manner, silencing 39,312 fans and a cauldron of noise in Seattle by beating the Sounders 1-0 on Saturday.

Now the club has just two league games over the next five weeks, and Salt Lake plans to try to rest and get everyone healthy.

RSL has two weeks off before hosting Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium Sat., May 26, and it will then have three weeks off before it plays at Chivas.

U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF games will start to come into the mix between the Dallas and Chivas contests, but the schedule over the next month will be much lighter than it's been.

And RSL heads into its much-needed rest-and-recuperation knowing it's earned more points — 26 — than anyone else in MLS. RSL leads San Jose atop the standings and sits four points ahead of third-place Seattle.

RSL coach Jason Kreis called it an "absolute ideal situation" to head into the long break atop the table, and his captain, Kyle Beckerman, agreed.

"It's a great start to the season," said Beckerman. "We're happy where we're at right now, and I think we're going to rest up a little bit and then try and get better — trying to improve. Even though we're satisfied with where we are with the points, I don't think we're satisfied with our final result and the way we know we can play.

"We'll keep working on that. We know what got us these points — it's the hard work, it's the training and staying together. We're going to have to continue to do that and try to improve."

RSL most definitely also hopes to get guys rested and healthy.

Salt Lake lost star midfielder Javier Morales to a right quad strain in the first half of a 0-0 draw at Chicago last Wednesday. Then starting fullback Chris Wingert limped off with a strained left hamstring in the first half of Saturday's big win over Seattle.

Morales could return in time for the Dallas clash, as could Wingert.

Wingert says he'll be ready, though doctors will take a look at him today.

Kreis, for his part, says everyone will get plenty of time off before next weekend.

"They guys are all going to get three — if not four — days off and then they'll get a couple days off next week, as well," said Kreis. "We all get to take a little bit of a breather and feel very good about where we're at, at the moment."

Then, as Beckerman pointed out, they'll try to get better.

Up until now, most of RSL's games have been tight, tense affairs, and while that's often the nature of the beast — it definitely was the case Saturday in Seattle — RSL undoubtedly hopes its best soccer is ahead.

"For sure," said Beckerman when asked whether RSL can rise to another level. "That's something we strive for. We're going to try and be perfect, and until we get there we're going to keep our heads down and keep working hard.

"This isn't the time that wins any championships. We've gotta keep looking towards our goal at the end of the season, and if we wanna win a Supporters Shield, it's going to take the whole year. We're on the right road, but we've got to keep trying to get better."

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