SANDY — In three road games between May 9 and June 16, Real Salt Lake was fantastic defensively with three shutouts. In four road losses since, including last week's Champions League match in Costa Rica, it has been outscored 9-0.
RSL coach Jason Kreis is more concerned about the defensive troubles than he is the 360-minute road scoring drought.
"When you talk about results on the road, I mostly think about what we did defensively. Did we really shut things down for our opponents on the road and build the game from there? I don't think we've quite done that yet," said Kreis.
Kreis attributes some of the mental mistakes to fatigue, but said everyone needs just a little bit extra focus and commitment right now to get RSL through the rough patch away from Rio Tinto Stadium.
With six of its final 10 games on the road, including Saturday at Vancouver, there's plenty of opportunities to get things sorted out.
The attack might suffer in the interim, but Ned Grabavoy said the collective team defending displayed in a pair of 1-0 losses last week is a decent foundation to build on.
"This is a team at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we contend for a championship, and the only way to do that is to be sound defensively. I think those things have been better the last couple weeks," said Grabavoy. "Now we just need to have that extra little effort to get into the box, to make special plays in the final third, take advantage of set pieces to try and find goals and get results on the road."
Some of RSL's biggest defensive mistakes this year have been on dead-ball situations, surprising considering the veteran-nature of the squad. It seems to be occurring more lately than earlier in the season.
"It's human nature to get tired, and when you get tired you make mental mistakes and you lose a little bit of focus and that's all it takes. We just have to keep reiterating the same message (to the guys), but that's OK," said Kreis.
Nat Borchers said it's important to keep getting those reminders over the course of a 40-game calendar year.
"We could be a lot better, and we're working on that right now. If we want to make a run at the end of the season at the (MLS) Cup and the Champions League, we've got to be better defensively," he said. "As professional athletes you always need reminders no matter how long you've been playing the game."
Borchers said it's important that the coaching staff continually reminds the defenders about the importance of keeping possession, closing down spaces and when and where to make the appropriate tackles.
With newcomer Kwame Watson-Siriboe expected to start in place of injured Jamison Olave for at least the next couple weeks, those reminders will be even more important.