Real Salt Lake ready for No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with San Jose
SANDY — Tony Beltran didn't get much sleep Wednesday night.
His mistake dramatically changed the course of the game against the L.A. Galaxy earlier this week, and he said he went home and watched a replay of the stunning moment at least 20 times.
"It's extremely disappointing because my teammates deserve better, the fans deserve better. (Jason Kreis) demands the best from us and it certainly wasn't good enough," said Beltran.
Beltran said he never saw Landon Donovan before he made the pass, but in hindsight he should've been making a good attacking pass anyway.
This is definitely not the week for Beltran or his teammates to feel sorry for themselves.
Just a few days after blowing a two-goal lead at home to the Galaxy, Real Salt Lake hosts the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday at 7 p.m. with first-place in the Western Conference up for grabs.
While coach Jason Kreis' team was busy letting three points slip away on Wednesday, San Jose scored twice in the final 10 minutes at Colorado to rally for the victory and trim RSL's lead atop the West standings to two points.
"When you're a good team, mistakes are going to happen throughout a season. It's more about how your respond to those; if you let it spiral into something more than it really was or if you take it as a one off and move on," said Will Johnson. "It's all about the reaction tomorrow night."
RSL certainly isn't going into the match at full strength.
After starting two matches the past week despite an injured calf, Jamison Olave won't be in uniform against San Jose. Chris Wingert will slide into the vacant center back spot, which raises a bigger question at his spot.
Does Kreis start back-up Terakazu Tanaka, newcomer Kenny Mansally or drop Johnson back into a defensive role.
"It's difficult times for us no doubt. There were spells like this last year where it seemed like it was one injury after another and having to play players out of position. The fact is we believe in our players and believe they can do it," said Kreis.
Whoever gets the starting nod, the task is daunting to say the least.
San Jose is one of the best attacking teams in MLS, and Chris Wondolowski is up to his usual tricks leading the league with 12 goals scored. Ten of the Earthquakes' 29 goals this year have been scored in the final 15 minutes of matches, including a pair of stoppage time goals against visiting Real Salt Lake back in April.
That match, just like this weekend's rematch at Rio Tinto Stadium, was a showdown of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Western Conference. In fact, the week prior to the late-April match in San Jose, RSL traveled to Kansas City for a showdown of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in all of MLS — and lost as well.
"It's nice to have one of these 1 vs. 2 games at home with our fans behind us. I think that will be the difference tomorrow," said Johnson.
Saturday's match is the last in another busy week for Real Salt Lake, but that hasn't been a problem so far this year. In three previous stretches with three games over eight days, RSL is 3-0 in the final game.
Kreis is hoping to make it 4 for 4 this weekend, and is counting on honest feedback from his players who played earlier this week if they're healthy enough to give it a go in what should be a hot, smoky night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Whoever is on the field though, Johnson said the players need to play smarter than they did against the Galaxy.
"We've just got to use our experience better than we did the other night. We've got a lot of experience on this team, played a lot of big games. We just have to cut out the mistakes and be more professional and the rest will take care of itself," he said.
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