SANDY — Real Salt Lake wrapped up the regular season on Saturday night in ho-hum fashion, battling the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 0-0 draw in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,483 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It was the third straight scoreless draw for RSL, but the first of the three with leading scorer Alvaro Saborio in the lineup.
In typical Jason Kreis fashion, he’s going to focus on the positive of three straight shutouts instead of the negative of 270 minutes of scoreless soccer heading into next week’s playoff series with the Seattle Sounders.
“If just a little thing here or there is better we don’t have three ties in our last matches — we have three wins. Literally, six inches this way or that way with some of the passes or the final touches or somebody just calms down and makes a little better decision around the attacking third, we’re talking about all these wins we’ve stacked up,” said Kreis.
“But I also think that could be a positive thing to have a little bit of disappointment in our minds heading into the playoffs, just give us a little bit extra edge.”
Just like against Herediano on Tuesday, RSL dictated the tempo all game, outshooting Vancouver 17-5. Just like Tuesday though, the goals were elusive.
Saturday’s defensive clean sheet was the eighth in the past 10 matches for RSL, and that’s what everyone was focusing on afterward.
“It’s good that we’ve been getting some shutouts and if we continue to do that we should have some success going into the playoffs,” said Chris Wingert.
Despite another frustrating result, the draw helped Real Salt Lake set a new club record with 57 points, eclipsing the 56 points it earned during the 2010 season.
Real Salt Lake is locked into the No. 2 or 3 seed from the Western Conference heading into the playoffs, but won’t know its exact playoff fate until after Sunday night’s regular-season finale between Seattle and Los Angeles. If Seattle wins or ties, RSL will finish third and open the playoffs at home next Saturday. If the Galaxy win, Kreis’ team will open the playoffs in Seattle Friday.
Five RSL regulars were held out of the starting lineup Saturday, but Kreis said only Will Johnson’s exclusion was simply to rest a player. He said Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave were all carrying injuries and Javier Morales came down with the flu Saturday morning.
“Over last 24 hours I had a very clear plan what the lineup was going to look like and it changed drastically with guys just having knocks and Javier getting sick with the flu,” said Kreis.
Without much to play for, Kreis wasn’t willing to risk the health of some of his most important players against Vancouver.
Real Salt Lake came out on the front foot despite a make-shift lineup that included Kyle Reynish, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Kenny Mansally and Jonny Steele. After a scoreless first half, Kreis stressed to his players the importance of going after maximum points in the second half, and the game got a bit stretched as a result.
“The first half was a little better. Tactically we were in better spaces,” said Kreis.
Vancouver appeared to take the lead in the 57th minute on a header by Darren Mattocks, but the linesman deemed the striker was narrowly offside when John Thorrington delivered his free kick near the corner flag.
It was rare action for back-up 'keeper Reynish who only made one save in the victory. Ned Grabavoy said that’s a great thing heading into the playoffs.
“At the end of the day if you can get zeros in the playoffs you’re going to put yourselves in a good position to move on,” he said.
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