LEHI — For the past two months, Real Salt Lake has been focused almost exclusively on the CONCACAF Champions League.
Sure, there were the occasional league games to prioritize for a night or two, but the focus always immediately shifted back to the Champions League. Now that the CCL festivities are in the rearview mirror, you'll have to forgive some RSL players and coaches if they're just now starting to pay attention to the goings-on around MLS.
"I'm getting back to it, because honestly I was not concerned at all with what was going on in the league, I was 100 percent focused on trying to get our team to be the first team ever to win that (Champions League)," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
While RSL was busy with the Champions League, the MLS season just kept rolling along and many teams are already a quarter of the way through the 34-game, regular-season marathon.
Nat Borchers agrees with his coach, and he says finding time to do anything but check the scores from around MLS has been difficult.
"It's been so tough to follow the league with as many games as we've had with Champions League and the league. It's nice to get back into a normal rhythm with the season. It's going to be nice to focus on one game a week, at least in the month of May," said Borchers.
For the players and supporters, this weekend is the perfect time to dive back into Major League Soccer now that the pursuit of continental glory is over.
Having played just one league game in the past 23 days, RSL no longer sits atop the MLS table. In fact, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Colorado all have more points, while RSL is tied with Houston, Columbus and Seattle at 12 points.
There's a huge silver lining though for Real Salt Lake — games in hand.
When putting together the schedule, MLS headquarters knew RSL was capable of a deep run in the Champions League and lightened the club's load in the first two months of the season. As a result, Real has only played five matches this year while most other teams have played seven, eight and nine.
That's a very advantageous position to be in, assuming it can rediscover its goal-scoring abilities.
Despite trailing Los Angeles by three points in the Western Conference standings, RSL has played four fewer games. If it won all four of those extra games, that three-point deficit could eventually become a nine-point cushion.
Games in hand are only worthwhile if you win them, but the team insists it's still confident despite two disappointing results last week.
"I think we've got the humility on this team to understand we had a very good run, but that's over now. We've got some other things to focus on. I don't think we ever got overconfident during that stage, but I definitely think we got knocked off our hill last week," said Borchers.
RSL will get a good test this Saturday against a Chivas team that's 2-0-3 in its past five league games.
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