Real Salt Lake looks to get back on track in regular season finale against Vancouver
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — Jason Kreis has said many times that in a two-game playoff series, he doesn’t care whether Real Salt Lake plays the first game at home or away.
That doesn’t mean Saturday’s regular-season finale against Vancouver is meaningless, however. Even though RSL is locked into the No. 2-vs.-No. 3-seed Western Conference semifinal series with Seattle, the club could use some momentum heading into the playoffs.
Without the services of leading scorer Alvaro Saborio the past two matches, RSL has endured back-to-back scoreless draws — including Tuesday’s Champions League ouster at home against Herediano.
After the extremely frustrating result against the Costa Rican club, Kreis acknowledged he was glad RSL had another match before the playoffs to rediscover its scoring punch.
Prior to a stalemate in Seattle last week, Real Salt Lake had won four straight and was playing some of its best soccer of the season. Realistically, the players believe they’re still trending that way regardless of Tuesday’s CCL result.
“It was another result where we defended quite well and we attacked quite well. We had them in their end of the field the whole game, and like I said, I think it’s something that we can move forward with and be very positive about,” said defender Nat Borchers.
Getting a result in Saturday's 7 p.m. game at Rio Tinto Stadium shouldn’t be a problem. Vancouver is locked into the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, and it will likely rest numerous starters to prepare for Wednesday’s one-game playoff at the L.A. Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake and Seattle are tied for second in the West with 56 points heading into the final weekend. The Sounders own the tiebreaker, but they also don’t play until Sunday evening.
Assuming RSL takes care of business against the Whitecaps on Saturday, it will need to wait 24 hours to learn whether it’s traveling to Seattle the following weekend or hosting Seattle.
Despite Kreis’ stance that the seeding is insignificant, history says otherwise.
In the Western Conference semifinals the past four years, RSL is 3-0 when it’s the lower seed and opens at home and 0-1 when it’s the higher seed and opens on the road.
Saturday is the third meeting between RSL and Vancouver this season, with the home team winning each match, 2-1.
Midfielder Will Johnson said that after Tuesday’s disappointing result against Herediano, the club is anxious to jump back into MLS play.
“Nobody was frustrated at each other, just frustrated at the situation. You know, that’s CONCACAF. That’s the ugly side of CONCACAF. It always has been, and as long as it continues like this, it always will be. So I think the guys are together and looking forward to getting back to MLS play and some real football,” said Johnson.
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