SANDY — Looking back at the top teams in MLS during the 2012 regular season, they all had one thing in common — they avoided losing streaks.
The San Jose Earthquakes won the Supporter’s Shield by never losing two games in a row. Kansas City, D.C. United, New York, Chicago and Seattle all finished near the top of their respective conferences by keeping losing streaks to a minimum of two each — and they were all just two-game streaks except for one three-game skid for Kansas City.
Even a team like Houston, which snuck into the playoffs on the final weekend, impressed with its ability to grind out results as it suffered just one two-game losing streak all season. That ability to grind out results certainly came in handy in the playoffs as the Dynamo advanced to MLS Cup for the second straight year as a No. 5 seed.
Real Salt Lake was the anomaly of the top MLS squads. It suffered through three losing streaks in 2012, including a pair of three-game slides. Interestingly enough though, it still finished with the second best record in the West because it also strung together six winning streaks, the most in MLS.
In 2013, with a team that patience has been preached repeatedly, RSL coach Jason Kreis doesn’t want to get too caught up stressing about results early in the season. However, he’ll have a pretty straightforward message for his players before they take the field in Vancouver this Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I’d like to see us try not to have two negative results in a row,” Kreis said. “Improve upon performance first, but also just a little bit of a thought about results.”
Coming off a 1-0 loss at Colorado last weekend, Kreis wants to see his players find a way to grind out a result.
Against a Vancouver team no doubt giddy to be home after going 0-2-1 during a three-game road trip, securing any type of result will be difficult.
“It seems like every away match we’re playing there’s some overwhelming reason our opponent is very, very hungry to get a result,” said Kreis, who referenced the desperate nature of winless Colorado in last week’s match.
This weekend’s match is the last in a difficult stretch in which five of RSL’s first seven games have been on the road. After winning the season-opener at San Jose on March 3, it has dropped three straight away from Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We identified before the season started this was going to be a very, very difficult beginning of the season, most difficult that I can remember actually,” Kreis said.
Even though Real Salt Lake is 0-2 in two previous trips to Vancouver, and no doubt anxious for some home games, this weekend’s match is actually one Tony Beltran is looking forward to.
“I like going to these stadiums. It’s a little bit different than Denver, it’s going to be a great crowd and good atmosphere,” Beltran said. “Unfortunately it is turf, and that’s obviously a negative, but I think Vancouver is a very capable team, they’ve done well, they have a lot of attacking prowess so we’ll have to be sharp and go up there and definitely improve over last week.”
If the game was on grass, Javier Morales would seem a safe bet to make his first start of the MLS season. However, as Morales continues to work his way back from a preseason knee injury, the RSL coaching staff might be cautious and limit his minutes on the BC Place turf as a substitute.
Morales played 28 and 45 minutes respectively in RSL’s previous two matches.
Prior to its winless road trip, Vancouver opened the season with home wins over Toronto and Columbus.
“I think Vancouver is a game we want to bounce back from. We took a loss this last Saturday, and it’s an opportunity to have another good performance and get a result. If we get a result up there that will lead into some good play at home for us,” Nick Rimando said.
After Saturday, RSL plays seven of its next 10 at home, including three straight beginning next Saturday.