Matt Gade, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES — The wait is over.
Real Salt Lake kicks off its 2014 MLS regular season Saturday night in Southern California against the L.A. Galaxy.
“I’m sure I’ll have some butterflies in my stomach, but I’m really confident with this group of men, so that leaves me at ease,” said first-year coach Jeff Cassar, who ushers in a new era for the club.
Asking for a win on the road is a tall task, especially in L.A. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, however, says Salt Lake doesn't feel any extra pressure to get Cassar his first victory.
“It’s not that important,” said Beckerman. “There are 34 games, so you’ve got plenty of games to get some wins.
“I know we’re up for it. We’re definitely ready to go and get the season underway. I think preseason is a bit long, so we’re out gunning for a real game that has three points.”
For veteran defender Nat Borchers, Saturday's match is not just about setting the tone for the season — it's also a chance to make up for the last time this squad visited L.A. That was a 1-0 loss in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals in early November.
“This is a big one for us. It’s L.A. Galaxy at L.A.,” said Borchers. “The last time we played there, I don’t think we did very well. It was a playoff game and we gave up a lot of chances and they kind of had their way with us. So, we’re looking for definitely a better performance.”
Reining in the weapons that the Galaxy have on the field is a difficult challenge for any team in MLS, and the RSL defense knows it will have to be at its best to contain guys like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Juninho.
“As always, we’ve got to stay on our feet with those guys. Just make things predictable, try to keep them wide and allow them as little of the center of park as we possibly can,” said Borchers. “It’s always tough playing against these guys. They’re a smart soccer team, so it’s always a challenge. “
For Cassar, the tough choices truly begin when time comes to submit the lineup for his first regular-season match as a head coach. With a squad that produces meaningful competition every week, it will be interesting to see who takes the field as RSL's starters in the season opener.
“Really, it’s about putting the best team out on the field to give us the best chance to win,” said Cassar. “They have an extremely talented coach, extremely talented players, and we have a good team philosophy here at RSL and we’re going to use that to combat them.”
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