Rarely has Real Salt Lake been in this position before.
Heading into tonight's home contest against expansion side San Jose, the repeated theme from within RSL's camp has been simple the players and coaches are all trying to guard against overconfidence.
Of the numerous problems Real has dealt with throughout its 3 1/2 years of existence, overconfidence hasn't been one of them.
Yet fresh off a huge momentum-building win at Chivas USA last Saturday, knowing full well it faces an expansion team in San Jose that it has already beaten twice by an aggregate score of 7-1 and aware that four of its next five MLS games are at home, Salt Lake understands it can't afford to have a letdown in a contest it's expected to win handily.
The victory over Chivas boosted RSL into a tie for third place in the topsy-turvy Western Conference standings, but as center back Nat Borchers pointed out, the team isn't yet where it wants to be. Getting there, he added, starts tonight at 7 against San Jose inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I think it's important for us to not lose sight of the fact that we're still in the bottom of the table, and we're still not to the position that we should be and need to be," said Borchers, whose backline has recorded two consecutive shutouts. "So I think it's important that we don't lose sight of that and don't get lackadaisical playing especially in our home games."
Bearing in mind that RSL is unbeaten in six home games this season, it doesn't take Columbo to figure out how important this stretch of the season is.
By earning something close to maximum points as it plays four of its next five games at home, RSL can do something it hasn't done in franchise history it can legitimately capitalize on an important opportunity.
Not that RSL coach Jason Kreis will put any stock in the history bit.
"I have to say that the history stuff just doesn't matter, frankly," said Kreis. "Twenty-one players are now different than it was just a year ago? History means nothing right now to this club. I know it means to the franchise maybe something and to the general public it means something, but this is a completely different team."
Such a point of view may ruffle the feathers of some of RSL's die-hard fans who have stuck with the team through three years of utter disappointment, but he does have a point: RSL in 2008 is totally different from any previous edition.
So, can this RSL team do what none of its predecessors could?
The short answer stay tuned."This stretch has come (and) we need to take advantage of it, plain and simple," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "It's important that they're home games. We feel comfortable at home and we know we can win at home, and these next four games are critical, I think, to our season."
ENDLINES: Because midfielder Andy Williams is still away with the Jamaican National team and won't return until later in the week, expect the same 11 players who started against Chivas last Saturday to be on the field at kickoff against San Jose, though Kreis may employ his side in a 4-5-1 formation or go back to a 4-4-2 ... Don't expect injured forwards Fabian Espindola or Yura Movsisyan to feature tonight ... After San Jose, RSL will next host New England on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
RSL on the air
San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake
Tonight, 7 p.m.
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