LEHI — In the five weeks since Real Salt Lake dropped the Champions League final, there's been a lot of talk about what's wrong with RSL.
The players have tried explaining it, the coaches have tried explaining it, and just about every soccer media outlet in the country has taken a crack at it.
With everything that's already unfolded in the first few months of the 2011 season, it's hard to believe there are still 25 regular-season games remaining for RSL. Coach Jason Kreis still believes his team is capable of achieving its many goals, but it must find a way to move on from its crushing defeat to Monterrey.
"We've got some things to be proud of if we can figure out a way to look at them that way," said Kreis. "... It's easy right now to look at everything so negatively. I think that's the really, really easy way out. We need to challenge ourselves to do better, individually and within games and plays, and collectively as a group, and also challenge ourselves to look at things a little more realistically."
Is Kreis saying that Real Salt Lake should lower its expectations? Not at all.
"We need to recognize that we're the same group of guys that a month ago everyone thought was the best," said Kreis.
Since losing to Monterrey on April 27 in the Champions League final, Kreis believes Real Salt Lake has lost the edge that made it great.
"We're only the best when we work the hardest, and it's a simple formula for me. If we don't work the hardest, we're not the best and we're not even close," said Kreis, who used Barcelona as an example to explain part of RSL's troubles.
"Barcelona plays fantastic soccer, but what they do without the ball is sometimes more impressive than what they do with it. Because when they lose it they're pressing back instantaneously to get the ball back, and that's a part of our game I think we've really let slip."
Kreis believes the confident RSL team of a few months ago would've come out and pounced on a Seattle team last weekend coming off just three days rest. Instead, it came out with a very nonchalant demeanor and never put the Sounders under any pressure.
Kreis said the approach was a far cry from two months ago when RSL pounced on the Galaxy with two goals in the first 15 minutes. That 4-1 triumph over Los Angeles was a big part of why everyone was so high on Real Salt Lake not that long ago.
Now, people wonder if RSL will even score one goal each game, let alone four.
"A month ago everybody's touting us as the best team in the region, the best team in the league and maybe the best team in the history of the league, and now a month on, we've had a difficult patch and now it's easy to think we're the worst team in the league," said Kreis. "The truth is always somewhere in between. I just don't think that we're in such dire straights right now."
With a busy June ahead with six games, those fortunes could change — positively or negatively — this month.
Amid his team's current struggles, defender Chris Wingert likes to joke that maybe people were overestimating RSL earlier this year.
All kidding aside though, he believes RSL is more than capable of bouncing back soon.
"We just have to focus on what we do well, and getting back to doing that and the results will come if we're able to take care of that," he said. "For now it doesn't matter really what other people think of us, good things or bad things, we just have to make sure we put forth a good performance on Saturday and then everything will take care of itself."
Like Seattle last week, Vancouver is coming off a midweek game this week. Kreis can only hope his players take the field with the attitude of burying the expansion Whitecaps in the first 15 minutes.