TORONTO — The cozy life is over for Real Salt Lake.
After seven straight home matches, the club is on the road this weekend for the first time since May 19, and Saturday’s visit to Toronto FC kicks off arguably the toughest stretch of the 2013 season.
With a combined 6-0-1 record in MLS and U.S. Open Cup play the past month at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL believes the key to continued success on the road is a similar approach.
“We feel like when we can take it to the other team, and put them on their heels a little bit, we’re playing our best soccer. So we’re going to continue to try and do that no matter where the game is,” said defender Chris Wingert.
That may prove to be easier said than done for a variety of reasons.
For starters, four of RSL’s next six matches are on the road, beginning with Saturday’s 11 a.m. MDT kickoff in Toronto. The match will be tape delayed locally at noon on Ch. 30.
Besides Toronto, RSL's other away matches during that stretch are at Dallas, New York and Colorado. RSL has never won in Toronto or Dallas, hasn’t won in Colorado since 2007, and will definitely be facing a highly motivated New York team that features Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola.
Coach Jason Kreis always gets a bit irked when reminded about Real Salt Lake’s 0-for-Canada or 0-for-Texas records.
“I know we have a few spots that we just don’t do well, and it seems like everybody wants to talk about it. Not me. We do pretty well in most places, and our record speaks for itself. I don’t think I have to make apologies for why we can’t win in one place or another,” said Kreis.
Even home matches against Philadelphia and Kansas City over the next stretch will be difficult, all of which makes the timing of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup problematic.
Alvaro Saborio departed RSL after Wednesday’s Open Cup victory to join the Costa Rican national team, while Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran and Kyle Beckerman will leave Sunday to join the U.S. squad. Depending on how deep their respective teams advance through the tournament, the quartet could be gone for up to a month.
Their absence is certainly an inconvenience for Kreis, but it comes with the territory of having national team-caliber players.
Before he concerns himself with plugging those holes in July, Kreis is solely focused on ending the Canadian hex, and RSL ownership chipped in to aid those efforts.
Instead of flying commercially to Toronto, the team departed on a charter flight Thursday, which should help immensely with the short turnaround after Wednesday’s match against Carolina.
“We won’t have to worry about connections and extra time spent in airports. The hope is we can get guys there fit and ready for the match,” said Kreis, who said that’s often been a challenge when traveling east.
“For me the travel matters a lot more than anybody wants to give it credit for. Really, really difficult. We’ve had so many times where we’re traveling through Atlanta and get delayed there. Summer months in Atlanta it seems like there’s more delays there than on-time flights.”
Considering how well RSL is playing — the club has a 9-1-1 record in its last 11 over all competitions with a 30-11 goal differential — this might be the club’s best opportunity to halt a 0-3-2 record at BMO Field.
“We’ve been on a run here at home, and that’s the plan to try and take that momentum on the road,” said RSL striker Robbie Findley.
GAME NOTES:Real have never even scored a goal in Toronto in MLS play, losing three games and drawing two. ... Toronto forward Justin Braun is a Skyline High graduate and was with RSL last season before being traded north of the border for Aaron Maund. ... Real won the only meeting between the clubs last season late in stoppage time 3-2.
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