Despite their varied differences, there's a subtle yet common link between Real Salt Lake and the Utah Jazz.
For reasons both explainable and unexplainable, there's one team and one city in their respective leagues that the Jazz and RSL simply can't overcome.
For the Jazz it's a 21-game losing streak at the San Antonio Spurs. For Real Salt Lake, that hurdle is Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. RSL has never prevailed on the road against its expansion brethren, with an all-time record of 0-6-1 and an abysmal minus-15 goal differential. That one tie came on the final day of the 2006 season. Chivas USA had already clinched a playoff berth and RSL had been eliminated.
The team isn't entirely winless at the HDC, owning a 2-4-0 record there against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Against Chivas, however, no matter the personnel on either side, winning on the road is a daunting obstacle.
Real Salt Lake will try to solve the Home Depot Center curse once and for all when it faces Chivas tonight at 8:30 (MDT), a match televised on KSL.
"I think we've taken some steps forward in tactics and shape and (are) learning how to play on the road, and I feel like we're moving in the right direction. Now all we need is the actual point or three points at the end of the day," said Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
Just two points from the bottom of the Western Conference standings, yet only five points from the top, tonight is a critical moment for RSL to claim its first road win of the season.
Standing in Real's way are a few former players, including a very familiar face and one of the team's captains earlier this year.
Carey Talley, who logged 60 matches for Real in slightly more than two years, is now a starting outside fullback for Chivas USA following a trade last month. Chivas is 3-2-0 since the trade, whereas RSL is 2-2-1.
"I'm excited to see Carey, he's a good friend, and I want what's best for him. I hope everything's going well for him out there," said Real defender Chris Wingert. "I have so many former teammates on different teams now, it's nothing really too different than a lot of the games."
It's somewhat ironic that Talley now suits up for Chivas, since it was RSL's 3-1 loss there on April 5 that made him expendable. The 11-year MLS veteran had one of the worst first halves imaginable, and after recovering in the second half was eventually subbed out in the 64th minute.
He was benched for RSL's next match, and a few weeks later RSL's coaching staff reiterated it preferred the tandem of Kenny Cutler and Dema Kovalenko at holding midfield and traded Talley to Chivas for a future draft pick.
Salt Lake is coming off a 0-0 draw against Kansas City last weekend and remained unbeaten at home at 3-0-3. On the road though, it owns an 0-5-0 record.
Surprisingly, though, the team is upbeat.
"I know everybody is positive and feeling good about ourselves because we played well last weekend," said Kovalenko. "We know every game is important. We're still in the middle of things, we've just got to take it one game at a time and work as a team. We've been playing good soccer."RSL will be playing without Andy Williams, who is away with the Jamaican National Team this weekend. With five other players on the injury report, including starters Kenny Deuchar (foot) and Kovalenko (illness), now might not be best time for RSL to visit its least favorite stadium in the league.
RSL on the air
Real Salt Lake at Chivas USA
Today, 8:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5