Tony Gutierrez, AP
SANDY — Short-handed Real Salt Lake will have its 11-game unbeaten streak tested Saturday night when Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City makes its lone visit to the Beehive State in 2013 to face the Western Conference — and MLS — leaders.
Saturday night's top-of-the-table showdown comes a week after RSL beat Dallas, which entered the match in second place in the Western Conference.
“Interesting that we’re having these kind of games back to back with each other,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis. “One, two in our conference and then one, two in the league. It’s an awesome challenge for us.”
A challenge indeed.
The Claret-and-Cobalt will again be without a slew of players away on international duty. Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio will all miss the match.
The RSL backline will also be stretched thin, with defender Carlos Salcedo and Josh Saunders joining the list of injured RSL defensive players this past week.
In last year’s one-and-only bout, it was Sporting K.C. who took a 1-0 result at Sporting Park. The lads in Claret-and-Cobalt likely stand in line with Kreis, who admitted he’d like to see his team return the favor after last year's loss.
“It’s a team that I don’t think we have a whole lot of love lost for, to be completely honest,” said Kreis. “And last year it’s a team that completely outplayed us at their stadium so I’m looking to return the favor.”
On paper RSL faces an uphill battle, but a closer look at the statistics tells a brighter story. Since a 2-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy back on April 27, Kreis and Co. have posted an 11-1-2 record across all competitions.
If that isn’t eye-opening, try the fact that RSL has outscored its opponents 36-13 in that span, rising to the top of the MLS table to become the Supporters’ Shield leaders.
Defender Nat Borchers shared his perspective of taking the field against Sporting K.C., comparing the totally different styles of play for each squad.
“We love playing against Sporting Kansas City because it’s a battle of two different styles of play,” said Borchers, who along with usual starter Chris Wingert will command the depleted backline.
“They have good players and they do like to play soccer, but I think for the most part they do like to look for that long ball and try to battle in your end of the field, whereas we like to build things slowly and keep that possession and score a little bit differently.”
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