Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
When Real Salt Lake suffered a 5-0 drubbing at San Jose last month, it looked as if the club's Supporters' Shield aspirations were drifting away as it slipped seven points behind the league leaders.
Fortunes can change quickly in MLS though.
With San Jose having a bye this weekend, RSL can reclaim the league's best record with a victory at rival Colorado on Saturday.
Overtaking the Earthquakes would reaffirm the benefits of RSL's even-keel approach no matter the adversity.
"(We're) trying to focus on not letting one game mean too much. I think that's the key to a long season. We had disappointing losses at home and the loss to San Jose, and you can turn it into more than it really is," said RSL defender Chris Wingert.
Coach Jason Kreis isn't getting too caught up in the fact his team can overtake first place. He's much more concerned about getting a good road effort from his players — which hasn't been easy lately.
Prior to Tuesday's 1-0 loss at Herediano in Champions League group play, Real Salt Lake had lost its two previous road games as well, a 2-0 loss at Columbus and a 5-0 setback to San Jose.
Kreis believes first place will take care of itself if he gets a good effort from his players.
"When the Real Salt Lake players and the Real Salt Lake team wants it more than their opponent ... then we get good results almost every single time, when we don't we almost lose every single time," said Kreis.
Real Salt Lake's had no problem giving that effort at home lately, posting a 3-0-1 record in July. Only four of its final 11 MLS regular-season matches are at Rio Tinto Stadium though, and it's easy to see why Kreis feels so much urgency to get the road result.
RSL will be trying to pick up those results without the services of Jamison Olave for quite a while. The center back is out four to six weeks after straining his hamstring in Costa Rica on Tuesday. Olave could miss as many as four league matches while he recovers, which puts extra pressure on RSL newcomer Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
The backup has played well since coming over in a trade with Chicago, and Kreis isn't worried about how he'll handle the extended minutes.
"I feel comfortable with him. I don't feel there's much of a dropoff. I think he's earned that right to say 'Coach, hey, there should be no hesitation from you to play me,'" said Kreis.
Saturday's match is the second in as many weeks between the Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, with RSL prevailing 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 21. Colorado sat back and tried to counter two weeks ago, but it will likely push forward a bit more this time around. It can't afford not to.
Colorado has lost six straight games and is 11 points out of playoff position with just 12 matches remaining.
"Colorado has been having trouble recently, but they're going to come out and put forth a great effort, and if we're stuck in Costa Rica still we're not going to do well," said Wingert.
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