There have been a lot of words tossed around Real Salt Lake practice this week regarding things the club must improve upon. Clinical, opportunistic, focused and organized are a taste of what the team is talking about, and all are particularly true heading into tonight's game at Rice-Eccles Stadium against D.C. United, the most successful club in the 13-year history of MLS.
"They have a very solid winning mentality. Most every decision their club makes is based on what's going to give their club the best opportunity to win," said Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
In merging some of the team's various thoughts together, perhaps it's most important for RSL to be clinically opportunistic.
There's been no shortage of scoring opportunities for RSL (0-1-1) in its first two matches; in fact, it's fair to say there's been plenty. And while the numerous chances have produced two goals, with more cohesion in the attacking third, Real could have five or six goals and perhaps two victories.
RSL's early season finishing struggles wouldn't be so pronounced if its opponents weren't capitalizing on its chances, but they are. That scenario must change for RSL to have any hope against D.C. (1-1-0).
"The next step for us is to punish teams," said Real defender Ian Joy. "We've got to get rewarded for our good play. At the moment, we're not rewarding ourselves; we're punishing ourselves really for not taking our chances and making silly little mistakes."
Those silly hiccups weren't really a problem in a dominant season-opening performance against Chicago two weeks ago, but they were a big issue against Chivas USA last weekend. Those mistakes spoiled a decent performance and has the club still in search of its first win of 2008.
Don't be surprised if last week's giveaways lead to a few line-up changes for Kreis, most notably with Carey Talley and Robbie Findley on the hot seat.
Regardless of who's on the pitch, D.C. United presents problems despite its inevitable fatigue with players like Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo and Brazilian striker Luciano Emilio.
Less than 72 hours ago D.C. United put its best 11 on the pitch in hopes of overcoming a two-goal deficit against Pachuca (Mexico) in the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinal. It won the game 2-1, but Pachuca advanced on aggregate 3-2. There's no telling how much juice D.C. will have left in the tank for tonight's 7 o'clock kickoff.
RSL actually has a decent track record against D.C. United, with two straight wins at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but Kreis doesn't think it's all that surprising.
"I don't think anybody plays D.C. United and doesn't go into it with that sort of mind-set, that these guys are the best and I want to see how I match up with the best," said Kreis.After tonight, Real continues its difficult opening month of the season with away games at Toronto FC and then D.C. United.
REAL on the air
D.C. United (1-1-0) at Real Salt Lake (0-1-1)
Today, 7 p.m.
Radio: 700 AM