It's been a whirlwind seven days for Real Salt Lake, kick-started by David Beckham's heroics last Saturday.
That performance set the table for RSL coach Jason Kreis' public criticism of MLS officiating, leading to his one-game suspension. On top of that, the club traded midfielder Carey Talley, one of the team's most experienced players, to Chivas USA on Friday for a future draft pick.
To cap it all off, FC Dallas is in town tonight, a team Real Salt Lake has rarely fared well against, with an all-time record of 2-8-1. Those eight losses represent the most against any MLS team.
"It's a team full of players that know their role and do it pretty well. There's some tactically very smart players and technically very gifted players," Kreis said. "There's players that like to run at you and one player that likes to score goals. They have the complete package."
FC Dallas (2-1-3) sits atop the Western Conference standings along with Colorado with nine points. RSL (1-3-2) has earned five points through six games, but a win tonight at 7 would go a long way toward narrowing the gap.
"We've played well in patches, and as we go on that will have to improve," said RSL striker Kenny Deuchar. "We know we need to start picking up more points."
Kreis will be forced to watch the match from the Rice-Eccles Stadium press box, the second time he's been forced to do so in his young coaching career. While this week's suspension is for critical comments in the media about officiating, last year's suspension was the result of a red card for yelling at an official and kicking the field boards.
Even though Kreis isn't permitted on the field level, he's allowed to be in radio contact with his assistant coaches on the sideline.
Asked what he thought about Kreis' comments and suspension, Real general manager Garth Lagerwey said, "Jason's standing up for the guys in the locker room. He's saying we're playing hard and working hard, and we've got to get over the hump. I think Jason showed he's willing to do anything he can think of to help the team get over the hump."
Regardless of where Kreis is watching from, the consensus from the players and coaches is that Real Salt Lake needs to improve its game management. Despite an unbeaten home record (1-0-2), Kreis doesn't look back positively on the two draws.
The first tie was the result of a last-minute equalizer by Chicago, whereas settling for last week's tie with the L.A. Galaxy came after RSL jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes.
"We're going to have to take advantage of being at home, and take advantage of having momentum in the game," said defender Nat Borchers. "We've got to play the whole game, not just part of it."
RSL rookie Tony Beltran will likely be making his second start of the season tonight in place of Ian Joy. After starting the first five games of the season, the veteran Joy was held out of last week's Galaxy match with bone spurs in his left ankle. He's now wearing a walking cast, and his status for future matches will be determined when the cast comes off in about seven to 10 days.
Talley was sent to Chivas USA in exchange for a conditional second-round SuperDraft pick in either 2010 or 2011.
"Tough for us to trade a captain, but at the same time it's a move we think we needed to make," said Lagerwey said. "We think in (Nate) Sturgis and (Dema) Kovalenko, there's two guys who can play that (holding midfield) spot, and Kenny Cutler even, and we want to give those guys opportunities."Kyle Beckerman has been promoted to full-time team captain.