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Real Salt Lake notebook: RSL looking to sharpen up its offense

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 10:15 a.m. MDT

LEHI — A year after leading MLS in scoring, and two weeks after scoring twice in Mexico, Real Salt Lake isn't necessarily panicking about being held scoreless in back-to-back games last week.

That doesn't necessarily mean it will sit back idly, either, and hope things sort themselves out this Saturday against Chivas USA.

"Mainly this week we've been working on a lot of offensive stuff just to get a little bit sharper. We're just lacking a little bit of sharpness in front of goal; if we can sharpen that up we should be OK," said Kyle Beckerman.

The consecutive shutouts against Monterrey and Portland mark the first time RSL has been held scoreless that long since being blanked by Chivas USA, Kansas City and D.C. United in consecutive games in May of 2009.

It's silly to call a two-game losing streak a slump, but Real Salt Lake's level of expectations is higher than just about anyone else in MLS.

Midfielder Ned Grabavoy is encouraged about the possibility of a quick turnaround with what's he's seen in training this week.

"I think the last two trainings have been very intense, especially (Tuesday's) training. Run it out of us and wake us back up," said Grabavoy. "Nobody likes losing two games in a week, and we have to be honest — that's what happened."

Grabavoy said that throughout the various exercises in training there's been a real emphasis placed on winning those individual drills. The goal is to get everyone's competitive juices flowing again after such an emotional letdown last week.

SABO MANAGEMENT: A slumping striker is a tough thing for a coach to deal with. When that slumping striker is also dealing with an injured knee, it makes it that much tougher.

Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake's leading striker from 2010, hasn't scored a goal since March 15. The drought encompasses three regular-season games and the last three CONCACAF Champions League games.

His last goal came in the eighth minute of RSL's 2-1 victory over Saprissa at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL coach Jason Kreis believes the struggles are still related to Saborio's offseason knee surgery.

"He's got swelling in his knee that he's doing the best he can and we're doing the best we can to try and manage and get that swelling down every week so we're ready to go for the weekends," said Kreis. "I know from being there that when you've got anything like that on your mind, it can effect your performance — especially for strikers. It's all about an inch here or there, a push here or there or a two-yard sprint here or there that makes all the difference in the world."

Kreis wanted to rest Saborio on the turf at Portland last weekend, but that just wasn't possible with Paulo Jr.'s hamstring injury and Fabian Espindola's fragile mental state after the Champions League finale.

Kreis said he'll continue to monitor Saborio's health and give him the occasional game off, just like he's been doing with defender Jamison Olave the past couple of years.

FAMILIAR FACE: Robin Fraser was an integral part of Real Salt Lake's success the past four years as an assistant coach. This Saturday, however, he'll be in enemy colors, as he's now the head coach of Chivas USA.

When asked about coaching against Fraser, Kreis quickly deflected attention elsewhere, saying Saturday isn't about the coaches but about Real Salt Lake trying to bounce back.

He did admit, however, that Fraser's unique knowledge of RSL could give Chivas an edge.

"He knows our personnel from top to bottom, every single player on our team he knows extremely well. He'll know what's coming at them," said Kreis.

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