Going to a difficult place to play this time of year is good for this team right now, maybe even more so because we’re on that streak. To really face adversity with a tough opponent, that can be good for us to build confidence going forward, and not just that, but character. —Ned Grabavoy, RSL midfielder
He usually quips that no apology is necessary because the team is successful in plenty of other places.
Is Texas next?
Two weeks after halting the franchise’s 0-for-Canada record with a 1-0 win at Toronto, Real Salt Lake heads to FC Dallas this Saturday hoping to end a much more cumbersome 0-for-Texas hex.
RSL has never won in Texas in 22 matches, which includes an 0-11-2 record in all competitions at FC Dallas.
Despite sweltering playing conditions for the 7 p.m. MDT kickoff, not to mention the absence of four starters because of international duty for the Gold Cup — which will take place at Rio Tinto Stadium, coincidentally enough — RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said a challenge like Dallas is exactly what the club needs.
“Going to a difficult place to play this time of year is good for this team right now, maybe even more so because we’re on that streak,” said Grabavoy. “To really face adversity with a tough opponent, that can be good for us to build confidence going forward, and not just that, but character.”
Real Salt Lake showed tremendous character in gutting out a 2-2 tie against Philadelphia last week despite playing with 10 men the final 30 minutes.
In the Texas heat, at times RSL might feel like it’s playing with only nine men, but those are the moments Grabavoy said the players need to stay focused to keep their 10-game unbeaten streak intact.
“It’s one of those games where there’s going to be a few really key plays and mistakes that can change the game. You see it all the time in the summer games, but down there even more so because of how hot and humid it gets,” said Grabavoy.
This is RSL’s second visit to Dallas this season. It lost 2-1 at FC Dallas Stadium on March 23, a match Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando missed because of international duty. The pair, along with Tony Beltran and Alvaro Saborio, are all unavailable for this match because of the Gold Cup.
“It’s tough 'cause they are important to us," RSL midfielder Javier Morales said of those four players. "We have a pretty good team, good soccer players. The last game at home I think we played good soccer even without them."
Over the past two months, Salt Lake and Dallas have been streaking in opposite directions.
On May 11 after RSL lost a gut-wrenching 3-2 decision at Montreal, it dropped a full seven points behind FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings. Dallas beat D.C. United on that same day to improve to 24 points.
Real Salt Lake has been sensational ever since with a 5-0-2 record, while FC Dallas has struggled with a 1-3-4 record.
Whenever Dallas has struggled in the past, a visit from Real Salt Lake has always been a cure. Will this year be any different?
“Look, we’re going to get chances, and we need to put those chances away and that’s going to help us get a result,” said Grabavoy. “It’s a lot to ask to get a zero down there — we’ll try for that — but in saying that if we can put away a chance or two that will change the game in our favor.”
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.