SANDY — Over the past couple weeks, Jason Kreis has been asked repeatedly about Real Salt Lake's inability to finish.
He's usually deflected praise to the defensive side of the ball, and said the goals will eventually come. Four games later, the goals still haven't come. Heading into Thursday's decisive playoff game against visiting Seattle, is Kreis worried about his attack?
That was the extent of Kreis' response to such a question earlier this week. Clearly perturbed about another question about RSL's struggling attack, Kreis offered no elaboration this time. He didn't praise the work rate of Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, or talk about all the chances the team has created despite four straight 0-0 games.
Don't expect a lot of offensive urgency at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8 p.m., either.
After RSL and Seattle battled to a 0-0 draw in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series last Friday in Seattle, both teams still have everything to play for. Unlike last year, when Seattle needed to score three goals against RSL in Game 2 to avoid playoff elimination, neither team is desperate to force the issue from the opening whistle.
Considering there's only been one goal scored in 360 minutes of soccer between RSL and Seattle this season, both teams know one goal might be enough to advance to the final four of MLS.
Chris Wingert said RSL needs to be ready for anything.
"I think every game honestly takes on a life of it's own. I hope we continue to play great defense and we get another shutout, but you don't know what's going to happen in a one-off playoff game like this," said Wingert. "It could end up 3-2 or something, who knows. We just have to be ready for anything. We feel if we take care of the details the results will take care of themselves, and we've done a pretty good job with that the past couple months."
The winner advances to the Western Conference final to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy after they shocked the No. 1-seed San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night. If Real Salt Lake advances, it would travel to Los Angeles for the opening leg of the two-game series with the galaxy this Sunday at 7 p.m.
Kreis isn't taking anything for granted just because Real Salt Lake is at home.
"Of course we have to feel good about where we're at. We like to be at home in this series tied, there's no doubt, but that doesn't mean anything really. We still have to put the 90 minutes of effort and work into the game to win. There's still a whole lot left to be done," said Kreis.
Historically, Real Salt Lake hasn't gotten it done in these situations either.
When RSL's hosted elimination games in either the MLS Playoffs on CONCACAF Champions League, the results haven't been good.
In 2008 it lost the Western Conference final to New York 1-0. In 2010 it needed a victory in the conference semifinals against Dallas but only managed a draw. It lost the Champions League final to Monterrey 1-0 last season when it only needed a draw, and then just a few weeks ago it needed a win against visiting Herediano to advance out of CCL group play, but settled for a 0-0 draw.
RSL's only successful advancement when playing at Rio Tinto Stadium was a 4-1 win in the 2011 CCL quarterfinals against Columbus.
"We've had a few games that we haven't been able to take advantage of, and we need to take care of business on Thursday. It's not going to be easy," said Wingert.
Both Seattle and RSL are facing significant injury concerns. Fabian Espindola is questionable after suffering a hamstring strain in Game 1, while defenders Jamison Olave, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers and Kwame Watson-Siriboe are all dealing with assorted leg injuries too
Seattle's Eddie Johnson is probable after missing Game 1 with an adductor strain, but midfielder Mauro Rosales is questionable after picking up a hamstring injury in Game 1.
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