There was a time not long ago when Rio Tinto Stadium was known around MLS as “The Fortress,” a nickname that emerged when Real Salt Lake reeled off a ridiculous 34-game home unbeaten streak over all competitions.
With eight losses at home the past two seasons — including a recent 2-1 setback to Kansas City — much of that luster has faded away.
A new fortress is quietly emerging for Real Salt Lake in Southern California, though.
Since the start of the 2012 season, RSL has won a staggering five straight games against the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA at the StubHub Center — formerly the Home Depot Center. Incredibly, four of those victories were by multiple goals.
Coach Jason Kreis’ team will look to extend that streak to six when it faces the Galaxy this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. (MDT) in its last regular season visit to Southern California this year.
Players attribute the historic success at the StubHub Center to several factors, including its close proximity to Utah. Real Salt Lake might soon we able to chalk up unpredictability as another reason for success.
RSL went away from its traditional diamond midfield formation last week in favor of a 4-3-3 formation to defeat the streaking Houston Dynamo. The club is now 3-0 this season when using the formation, and you can bet the L.A. Galaxy are mindful of that fact.
“I know from personal experience when you’re preparing for a team that’s played several different shapes over the past several weeks it makes it a little bit difficult,” said Kreis. “You’ve kind of got to spend more time with your players than sometimes you want to, to organize and make sure they’re prepared for everything.
“Glad we can perhaps put our opponents on their toes a little bit.”
Indeed, the Galaxy haven’t been able to exclusively prepare for RSL’s diamond midfield this week. They've also had to prepare for the possibility of also facing a trio of forwards that includes red-hot Alvaro Saborio along with speedy playmakers Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata on the wings.
“I think it makes us a lot more dynamic in the way we attack, the way we defend. It gives us the opportunity to utilize more players and play more to our individual players’ strengths. I think it definitely makes it tougher for teams to prepare for us,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers.
Los Angeles no doubt has talked a lot about containing Saborio, who has six goals and one assist in his last five MLS games. Conversely, Galaxy striker Landon Donovan has been equally as hot with four goals and three assists in his last five matches.
“They’re always a fun team to play. They present so many difficult situations from a defensive standpoint to defend against,” said Borchers.
Real Salt Lake is coming off its first shutout in nearly a month, and Borchers said it’s important to limit L.A.’s chances as much as possible and not simply rely on heroic saves by Nick Rimando.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.
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