SANDY— Saturday's match at Rio Tinto Stadium is the third and final game of Real Salt Lake's current homestand, with the lads in Claret and Cobalt holding only three points from the first two matches.
Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis didn't mince words Friday afternoon, explaining that Saturday's contest against Vancouver should be a statement game for the club.
"I think this is as critical a game as we've faced all year," said Kreis. "We've come back from a very disappointing performance last weekend, and we need to make a statement to ourselves about how good we are; and how willing we are to work; and how much we want things. So, for me, I think it's a critical matchup."
RSL fans surely haven't forgotten the first clash between these two teams, played April 13 at BC Place. In that contest, Vancouver benefited when RSL defender Nat Borchers slipped in the closing stages of the match and was called for a handball in the box. Camilo Sanvezzo converted the ensuing penalty kick, with the late goal resulting in a 1-1 draw.
However, Borchers said he isn't focused on what he happened in that game. He's more worried about what will happen in this one.
"I'm not thinking about that. That was just an unfortunate call, unfortunate situation," said Borchers. "I'm just hoping we have a good game, play well, take our chances, and if we can get a shutout that'd be fantastic."
In that match three weeks ago, several Vancouver players continually tried to bait the referee into blowing his whistle for penalty kicks, a problem Kreis thinks should be eliminated from the game — including from his own players.
"I'm not a fan of that at all, but our players have been guilty of it as well ... in the past. It needs to continue to be focused on by the referees, by the league, by the coaching staffs and by the players themselves," said Kreis, who is seeing the change happen in front of his eyes with players calling out teammates. "I've been a big proponent of the players starting to try and hold each other accountable through their union. They have a very strong union, and I think that there are ways and means for them to do that. So it's incumbent on everybody involved to take that nonsense out of the game."
While RSL fans can revel in the fact that Vancouver will be playing its third game in just seven days, it should be noted that RSL will be short-handed at the forward position, most notably with leading goalscorer Alvaro Saborio (quad) out.
"I think that there's a physiological output that your body is capable of making, and for me three games in a week is not ideal for our sport. But I know that Vancouver did a lot of rotating players Wednesday night, so I think that the fatigue shouldn't hurt them very much at all," said Kreis. "We have injuries to important players, but we built this team and our team motto is that the team is the most important thing. So, if we have guys that step out we need to have guys that step in and contribute.
"Different players will get opportunities, and I think that’s a good thing."
When asked if "content" was the right word to describe his club's three points from two home games, Borchers half-smiled and replied:
"No, definitely not content. I think that we always expect to get three points at home and when we don't, you know, it definitely puts us behind the eight ball a bit. There's more pressure on us to get a result, so I think the pressure is on us to come out and get three points (Saturday) night."
MORALES RISING: For the past few weeks, Javier Morales has been reminding fans of the playmaker RSL has missed at times during the past few seasons. Morales was particularly bright in a 90-minute performance against Chivas USA when he scored his first goal of the season.
On Friday, Kreis hinted that Morales' fitness isn't quite 100 percent.When Morales reaches that peak, Kreis believes his performances will be even better.
"I think there is definitely room for improvement fitness-wise. It's always been my feeling that when Javier's at his absolute peak in fitness, that's when he's at his absolute best in performance. He would tell you, and I would tell you as well that he's not 100 percent fit yet."
WINGERT IN STARTING 11: In this, the last game of a three-game homestand, Kreis hinted that defender Chris Wingert is in the running for a starting spot. Fellow defender Borchers offered praise to his teammate.
"(Chris) is one of the most underrated outside backs in the league. He's so good at his positioning, and his communication is second to none. (You) never see him get beat on the outside there," said Borchers. "I've played with him for many, many years, and it always helps to have another veteran on the backline. I'm excited if he is going to be starting.
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