SANDY — What began as a four-game homestand for Real Salt Lake has quickly swelled to seven, thanks to the club’s flirtation with rare U.S. Open Cup success.
“It’s almost like having somewhat of a normal life,” said defender Nat Borchers.
After a very road-heavy schedule throughout the first three months of the 2013 season, RSL has been camped along the Wasatch Front since returning from a May 19 visit to Chivas USA. By the time RSL travels to Toronto for a match next Saturday, the players will have slept in their own beds for 38 straight nights — unheard of in professional sports.
It’s been a very successful stretch at Rio Tinto Stadium as well, with a 2-0-1 record in league play and a 2-0 record in U.S. Open Cup play.
“We’ve gone on the road and done OK, but at home you have to get results and there’s no question about that if you want to make the playoffs in this league. You have to take care of business at home,” said Borchers.
With two more victories to wrap up the cozy stretch, Real Salt Lake could find itself in both a familiar and unfamiliar position.
The first of those two matches is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against fellow streaking club Seattle, which is 5-1-1 in its last seven league games. The match represents the exact midpoint of the 2013 season for RSL, and with a victory and favorable results around the league, the club could find itself in sole possession of first place in the Western Conference for the first time since June 20 of last season.
Real Salt Lake wraps up the seven-game stretch against lower division foe Carolina next Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Coach Jason Kreis’ team has never advanced to the semifinals of that competition.
As successful as the home stretch has been, which includes a 15-6 scoring edge the past five games, Ned Grabavoy believes the march up the standings actually began on the road.
Real Salt Lake played three straight games at New England, Montreal and Chivas prior to its current run at Rio Tinto, and Grabavoy said the quality of soccer during that stretch was very good — even in the late loss to Montreal.
“We started to gain confidence a bit on the road,” said Grabavoy.
The midfielder is the first to admit he feared a homestand might disrupt that run of form.
“I’m always a little afraid when there’s a bunch of games at home that there’s going to be a lapse, whether that’s one game or two games. Sometimes the longer you’re at home the more comfortable you get,” said Grabavoy. “You go on the road for a couple weeks and you get switched on and solely focused on soccer.”
Real Salt Lake will definitely need to be dialed in against Seattle, which is 6-1-2 since a 2-1 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 30.
Seattle, conversely, will need to be mindful of a potent RSL attack that’s netted 25 goals in all competitions over the past nine matches.
Incredibly, Alvaro Saborio has played just 28 minutes during that stretch because of injury and national team duty. The striker is coming off a 90-minute performance Tuesday for Costa Rica, and is a good bet to play this Saturday against Seattle.
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