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Real Salt Lake notebook: Team must readjust to the turf

Published: Thursday, Nov. 19 2009 1:20 a.m. MST

SEATTLE — Real Salt Lake used to be a good team on turf.

It came with the territory of calling Rice-Eccles Stadium home for nearly three years. Since moving to Rio Tinto Stadium though, RSL hasn't been a very good team on turf at all.

Real Salt Lake will need to channel the ghost of Rice-Eccles Stadium past if it hopes to claim the franchise's first title this Sunday against Los Angeles on the turf of Qwest Field.

"We used to be really good on turf," said defender Chris Wingert.

Not this year it hasn't. Four MLS teams play on turf and RSL lost all four of those away matches by a combined score of 8-1.

Wingert said he's not too concerned about playing on turf in the MLS Cup because the Galaxy don't play on turf either — even though they finished with a 3-0-1 record on the artificial surface this year.

RSL's only appearance at Qwest Field this year came in the season opener back in March. It struggled with the speed of the turf the entire match ultimately losing to the expansion Seattle Sounders 2-0.

The team will try to get it right this weekend by training at Qwest Field this Friday and Saturday in advance of Sunday's final.

"I'm an advocate of training on it and getting used to it, I know it's a little tough on the guys' bodies," said Wingert. "I'd rather play on grass for sure, but we're not playing a team that plays on turf so there's not as much concern as if we were playing Seattle in the final."

Fellow defender Nat Borchers said the unpredictability of turf means the entire team must be even more focused against the Galaxy.

"Turf fields are tough in the back because balls come bouncing down and sometimes they bounce straight up and they don't go back to your keeper. So you have to really be wary of not letting the striker come in and take the ball away and get an easy goal," said Borchers.

STAR QUALITY FINAL: MLS commissioner Don Garber was asked earlier this week if it was good for the league to have its marquee player playing in its marquee game.

Garber said he would never endorse one team over another but said sometimes leagues benefit when their most recognizable teams play for the championship — using the Yankees and Red Sox as his primary example.

"It's good to have a team like L.A. with David Beckham, Landon (Donovan) and a guy like Bruce (Arena) who's been around the block in the championship game," said Garber.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESSES: RSL captain Kyle Beckerman acknowledges that Los Angeles is a good attacking team, but he also said there's kink in the armor of the Western Conference champs.

The Galaxy are a team that likes to push numbers into the attack, which at times leaves the team vulnerable to the counterattack.

"Some of the things that benefit their team also hurts their team, and we'll look to exploit those things," said Beckerman. "A lot of times they'll leave a big gap in the midfield."

With speedy strikers like Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan, RSL might be able to use the speed of the turf to its advantage.

INJURY REPORT: The teams released the injury report for this Sunday's match.

Fabian Espindola (knee) is listed as questionable for RSL, while Jamison Olave (knee) and Chris Wingert (stomach) are probable.

Los Angeles will be without Julian Velentin (foot) and Alecko Eskandarian (head), and Stefani Migliorani (groin) is questionable.

ELEVATED STATUS: Major League Soccer has worked with Seattle officials to paint the top of the Seattle Space Needle as a soccer ball in celebration of MLS Cup. The soccer ball features logos from both Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles.

NO TIME FOR CELEBRATING: Regardless of who wins Sunday's MLS Cup, both teams must submit their protected list of 11 players to the league by Monday afternoon for the Philadelphia Union's expansion draft on Wednesday.

e-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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