We’re very close to the playoffs and we know we’re going to need strong performances from our strongest players. —Jason Kreis
SANDY — Just a few days removed from another cup failure at home, Real Salt Lake’s players appear to be saying and doing all the necessary things to put their U.S. Open Cup final defeat behind them.
A players-only meeting was held at Rio Tinto Stadium prior to Friday’s training session, and by all accounts it helped everyone refocus for the final three games of the regular season.
“Got through some stuff and everyone is on the same page now. We know what we have to do. There’s no sense in dwelling on the result from Tuesday night. We’re moving forward, looking forward to Dallas,” said defender Nat Borchers.
Real Salt Lake can clinch a playoff spot with a victory against visiting Dallas at 7 p.m. Saturday, and a positive result is exactly what the team needs.
“Obviously the Open Cup is done. Unfortunately we didn’t win that. We had a great chance to but didn’t, so we have a few games to try and collect some points but ultimately play better as well and move toward the playoffs in better form,” said midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
Rediscovering the quality form of a couple of months ago is the top priority, because clinching a playoff spot is really just a formality.
To find that form, Grabavoy said RSL needs to find different ways to win different types of games. It starts by cleaning up the defensive miscues that have plagued the team for quite a while, but also figuring out how to break defenses down even if they pack it in.
Real Salt Lake will likely get another chance to break down a compact defense this weekend when eighth-place FC Dallas comes to town. Dallas desperately needs three points to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, and you can bet coach Schellas Hyndman’s team will follow the recent blueprint by San Jose and D.C. United to get the result — pack it in and wait for mistakes.
Conversely, RSL is desperate for a victory to keep its slim Supporters’ Shield hopes alive, but RSL coach Jason Kreis isn’t concerned with trophies this weekend, but rather “a positive performance leading to a positive result.”
Kreis acknowledged that he might tweak the lineup to make it happen. His virtual first-choice lineup has lost back-to-back important matches, while his “B” team is coming off a road victory against a strong Vancouver side.
Kreis said he won’t discredit the Vancouver win when picking his lineup this weekend, but acknowledged he needs to weigh changes to the lineup with the importance of building momentum to the playoffs.
“There are lot of difficult decisions for the coaching staff. It’s one of those moments where you make a decision relying on what you know and feel versus giving players opportunities who frankly deserve it,” said Kreis. “It’s also the end of the season, which I think you have to factor that in as well. We’re very close to the playoffs and we know we’re going to need strong performances from our strongest players.”
After Saturday, Real Salt Lake will have two weeks off before traveling to Portland on Oct. 19.