SANDY — Back in March, Real Salt Lake opened the season with an emphatic 3-0 victory at San Jose.
With the rematch on tap at Rio Tinto Stadium tonight, does anyone really believe the Earthquakes have a chance against a team in the midst of a 16-game home unbeaten streak? RSL coach Jason Kreis sure hopes his players do.
"The biggest thing I'm fearful of is our guys being overconfident and feeling good about themselves and feeling that they don't have to be at their best to beat San Jose, because that's not the case," said Kreis.
A lot has changed since that March season opener — mostly notably for the 'Quakes.
They're 5-3-2 since the early shellacking and find themselves only six points behind second-place RSL in the Western Conference standings. With a game in hand, they're in great position to make a move with a win tonight at 7.
Realistically though, San Jose is also only two points clear of seventh place in the West and another thumping at the hands of the champs could have the club questioning itself again.
While San Jose seeks to become relevant in the West race, Real Salt Lake hopes to keep things status quo.
Sixteen days ago it beat the previously unbeaten L.A. Galaxy 1-0 in dramatic fashion at Rio Tinto Stadium to extend its current unbeaten streak to seven (6-0-1) and close within nine points of the Galaxy in the standings.
Since the triumph, the players took a mini five-day vacation, faced an unbelievably overmatched Costa Rican club in an exhibition game and have also been consumed with World Cup fever.
A letdown is a distinct possibility.
"San Jose has done very well this year. They're right behind us in the standings, so we need to come out and give them our best," said defender Nat Borchers.
Nick Rimando, who has won 99 career matches in goal, agrees.
"Any team can beat anybody at anytime in this league. They're a good team, Frank (Yallop's) a good coach and they're a team that when they play well they get points," he said.
The results haven't been there lately, though. San Jose is 0-2-1 in its last three and coming off a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas just prior to the World Cup break.
The 'Quakes hope to come out of the break recharged, while RSL used it to get healthy.
Injuries were a big issue prior to the break, but all major contributors excluding Kyle Beckerman appear to be at full strength. RSL's captain hasn't played in over a month with a torn tendon in his left foot, and all along he's optimistically targeted tonight for his return.
He's questionable, with perhaps a more realistic timetable for his return coming the following week against New England on July 2.
"In my mind that's what I'm thinking," said Kreis about being cautious. "We'll recognize that we have a whole lot of games left to play this season, and a whole lot left that we'll need Kyle Beckerman for."
RSL is 2-0-1 without him, but the midfield hasn't been as dominant.
RSL on the air
Real Salt Lake (7-3-2) vs. San Jose (5-4-2)
Today, 7 p.m.
Rio Tinto Stadium
TV: KUSG 2.2
Radio: 700 AM, 1600 AM