SANDY — A couple of days after coach Jason Kreis declined to talk about it, Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman addressed the elephant in the room head on during a conference call with local and national media Tuesday.
That elephant is RSL’s bleak history in big matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. We’re not talking about big June or July matches either. We’re talking about playoff and cup matches where trophies and advancement are on the line.
In the five years since Rio Tinto Stadium opened, Real Salt Lake has played eight playoff and cup elimination matches at home.
It has won or advanced just twice.
The first was a 2011 Champions League quarterfinal game against Columbus in which it prevailed 4-0 and the second was this year’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory over Portland.
Other than that, it’s been all failure.
As frustrating as that reality is, Beckerman is trying to put a positive spin on it heading into Thursday’s Western Conference second-leg playoff match against the Galaxy in which RSL needs a victory.
“For us, the way I look at it, you’ve got to keep putting yourself in those positions to play those games. We’re doing something good to keep getting these games and getting an opportunity to win on our home soil,” said Beckerman.
“We know there’s still a lot to play for, so I think we’re really excited to get another chance to advance in a game that’s played at our place.”
Ironically enough, Real Salt Lake is perfect in playoff and cup matches at home when it’s the first leg. In fact, Beckerman’s team has never given up a goal. It beat Chivas 1-0 in the 2008 playoffs, Columbus 1-0 in the 2009 playoffs, Saprissa 2-0 in the 2011 CCL semifinals and Seattle 3-0 in the 2011 playoffs.
It’s the second leg that gives RSL problems.
Asked about being in the situation again following Sunday’s first-leg loss at the Galaxy, Kreis shrugged it off.
“I have no thought about it,” Kreis told reporters. “I’m not going to talk about it. Zero. The end.”
It was a far cry from his responses process heading into the U.S. Open Cup final against D.C. United last month, when he talked openly about the club’s past failures to use them as motivation. Real Salt Lake ended up losing that match 1-0.
Considering the crummy history, you can certainly understand why Kreis wouldn’t want to talk about it.
In 2008 his team lost its conference final at home to New York 1-0. In the 2010 conference semifinals it needed a win against Dallas after losing the first leg by a goal but was eliminated with a 1-1 draw.
The most heart-wrenching moment in club history was the 2011 Champions League final, when a 0-0 or 1-1 draw would’ve been good enough to claim continental glory, but instead Monterrey celebrated at Rio Tinto Stadium with the 1-0 victory.
Last year RSL bowed out of two competitions within 15 days of each other at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Needing a win against Costa Rica’s Herediano to advance out of Champions League group play, it was eliminated with a 0-0 draw. Two weeks later it lost to Seattle 1-0 in the second leg of the MLS conference semifinals.
This Thursday is yet another opportunity for Real Salt Lake to capitalize on home-field “advantage.”
“We all kind of feel like we’ve got to keep putting ourselves in these opportunities and we’re going to succeed in one of these and then who knows what can happen. Momentum is a pretty big thing, so we’re hoping to really change the tide on Thursday,” said Beckerman.
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