SANDY — The streak is not expected to last forever, especially with three key players missing for the next two months. Still, Real Salt Lake is on the verge of a Major League Soccer record for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season as it awaits FC Dallas this weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL pushed its unbeaten streak to 11 Saturday night with a 2-1 home victory over Colorado as it improved to 6-0-5 on the season.
The MLS record for starting the season undefeated was set by the L.A. Galaxy in 1996 when they won their first 12 games. RSL could tie the record with a win or draw Saturday night against Dallas and could beat the record the following week in a huge game on the road at Seattle, which leads the Western Conference standings, two points ahead of RSL with an 8-3-1 mark.
“I’m obviously really pleased with the start of the season,’’ said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. “I think it would be foolish to say we’ve played fantastic every game. But we’re going to get better and the guys are encouraged by that as well, so I’m really pleased.’’
In Saturday night’s game, RSL was playing for the first time with three top players missing at the same time — goalkeeper Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman, who are training with the U.S. World Cup team, and Alvaro Saborio, who is playing for Costa Rico in the upcoming World Cup.
Salt Lake hardly missed a beat. Backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made several saves in the net before giving up a late goal, while Cole Grossman played well in midfield and Devon Sandoval shined in Saborio's forward spot.
RSL got a first-half goal from Joao Plata, his sixth of the season, and one early in the second half on a penalty kick from Javier Morales to stake the team a 2-0 lead. Then in the 83rd minute, the Rapids got on the board, but couldn’t force a draw in the final minutes.
RSL's players can’t explain exactly why they’re still unbeaten, but say among other things, it has to do with chemistry and some luck.
“We’re a tight group,’’ said Attinella. “We have a special group and we’re really not thinking about it too much. To say any of the results have been easy is not true, so we know we can get better. Luckily for the first 11 games it’s been going our way.’’
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy said the team is more confident on the road, and added, “Anytime you’re on a streak like this, you’re getting some bounces and some luck. But we’re creating that a little bit ourselves as well.’’
With Rimando, Beckerman and Saborio gone until August, other players will need to step up, but Cassar is confident that they will.
“Obviously missing Nick, Kyle and Sabo is huge , but with the character of these guys in the locker room, everyone is stepping up to do more,’’ he said. “It shows what kind of depth we have.’’
As for the unbeaten streak, it’s not going to be easy with key players missing and upcoming games against Dallas, which is in third in the West, followed by first-place Seattle.
“We’re only 11 games in and we still have a lot to learn,’’ said Cassar. “We’re going to keep it going as long as we can.’’