SANDY — Predictably, spirits were high at Real Salt Lake practice Tuesday.
On the verge of suffering a second-straight loss last weekend at Portland, RSL turned what seemed like an inevitable loss into an improbable victory with a two-goal outburst over the final four minutes.
"Anytime you're coming off a win, an emotional one and a positive result, I think everyone's spirits are a little bit higher and everybody's energy is a little bit higher," said coach Jason Kreis.
Sitting in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake will try and build on that momentum tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium against the expansion Montreal Impact (7 p.m., Ch. 30).
Montreal, a team that includes Salt Lake native Justin Braun and former RSL midfielder Collen Warner, is winless through four matches with just one point. Despite Montreal's predictable struggles, don't expect RSL to take the Canadian club lightly.
"They've got nothing to lose coming here. Everybody's expecting them to lose just like everybody expected Chivas to lose. It's a unique challenge you have to make sure the focus is there," said RSL midfielder Will Johnson.
As far as Kreis is concerned, Montreal's 0-3-1 record and last weekend's 5-2 loss at New York makes the visitors all the more dangerous. In fact, Kreis believes Montreal was the much better team through the first 45 minutes at New York last Saturday. The Impact led 2-1 in first-half stoppage time before Kreis said a suspect penalty kick went against Montreal. New York rode the momentum to three second-half goals and the lopsided win.
Real Salt Lake hopes for a similar scoring outburst after getting shut out 1-0 in its last home match against Chivas USA.
Wednesday's match is the second in a three-match, eight-day stretch for Real Salt Lake, with the latter coming this Saturday at home against rival Colorado.
"There's going to be a bit of a rotation, most likely, to try and keep the team as fresh as we can and have that energy level that we need," said Ned Grabavoy. "And there's still some guys coming back from injury a little bit, so you don't want to risk anything there."
Nat Borchers, Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales all made their first starts of the season in Portland, and it's unknown what role they'll play in this week's two home games. Regardless, Grabavoy said the team should be just fine.
"I think (the coaches) have tried to show it's not just about 11 players, there's going to need to be a large group of guys that contribute this year throughout the season and I think they've showed some faith in some guys early in the year and it's probably paid off," said Grabavoy.
It was a point Kreis reiterated after training on Tuesday when asked about getting his "first-choice" players back in the starting lineup in Portland. In keeping with RSL's "The team is the star" mentality, Kreis said RSL doesn't have first-choice players, just players.
Whoever gets the nod, Johnson said RSL needs to be mindful of some potential wrinkles by Montreal.
"Expansion teams are unpredictable; you don't know what you're going to get. They're still trying to figure out what they're trying to do, and they might try something tomorrow and it might work," said Johnson.
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