Repeatedly leaving points on the field has been a frustrating reality for Real Salt Lake this year. It’s nothing, though, compared to the frustration in the Windy City lately.
The Chicago Fire haven’t won a game yet this season and head into this Saturday’s match against visiting RSL with six straight ties dating back to March 16.
RSL and Chicago have combined to tie 11 of 15 matches this season, which means Toyota Park might be hosting a good ol’ fashion sister-kissin’ contest on Saturday (6:30 p.m., Ch. 30).
For unbeaten Real Salt Lake, there’s been no awkward public finger-pointing after blowing a late lead to Vancouver last weekend.
“Whether player or coach, you’re continually learning from every game, every day, every practice, it’s nobody’s fault the way things went down. It’s a collective thing,” said defender Tony Beltran.
In fact, midfielder Ned Grabavoy kind of chuckled at training this week when asked about the adversity facing the team right now.
“We’re here talking about us losing leads late in games. Not that we’ve no wins into the season,” said Grabavoy, alluding indirectly to this week’s opponent.
Nonetheless, for a team with visions of trophies in 2014, wasting points isn’t the path to success.
“For us, that’s frustrating because we have high expectations, and we know that we’re a team that’s capable of winning a lot of games, and these are things that can be fixed and should be fixed by a veteran group,” said Grabavoy. “Maybe it’s good that it’s happening early on in the season, gives us a little bit of a wake-up call and hopefully pushes us and propels us to get better.”
A bounce-back performance at Chicago won’t be easy.
Despite all the talk through the years about Real Salt Lake’s struggles at places like Dallas, Houston, D.C. United and Toronto, Chicago has consistently been a troublesome destination with an all-time record of 1-3-4.
Coach Jeff Cassar sees similarities to this weekend’s challenge and last week against Vancouver.
“It’s another team that has dangerous players offensively, and it’s another game, how good are we with the ball, and hopefully we will have learned and gotten better,” said Cassar.
Real Salt Lake will particularly need to be mindful of Chicago’s newest designated player Juan Luis Anangono and reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee.
“They’ve got a lot of speed up top,” said Beltran. “Mike Magee, he always pops up in dangerous places and scores against us. We’ll just have to be sharp and try and limit their chances, especially on the counterattack, ’cause that’s where teams are dangerous against us is when we turn the ball over and they go right against us.”
Despite all the frustration surrounding the team right now, Real Salt Lake still heads into the weekend with the third-best record in MLS and just two points off the pace set by streaking Seattle.
Beltran believes the team is channeling that frustration in the right direction.
“This is an experienced group, I know this group is disappointed in themselves for not only giving up last week’s goal but the two others as well. We’re excited to get back on the field, and we’re impatient for this game so we can redeem our mistakes,” he said.
This weekend marks the second-to-last game that Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio will be with the club before joining their respective national teams to prepare for World Cup in Brazil.
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