SEATTLE — Real Salt Lake is no longer undefeated, has been shut out in back-to-back matches, has several players unavailable, and faces its first midweek game of the 2014 season in a location thousands of miles away from where it played Saturday afternoon.
Time to at least feel a little uneasy, right?
RSL’s veteran players have seen this movie before — played out time and again during this six-year (and counting) golden era of the young club — and they know what they need to do to get things turned around.
In the locker room after suffering their first loss of the season Saturday afternoon to Seattle — having won or drawn their previous 12 matches — RSL’s players and coaches were completely focused on moving forward. That involves trying to get two positive results from their final two matches before MLS’ World Cup break.
“What I’ve been stressing with these guys all along is, ‘We won? Great. On to the next team. You lose? OK, it’s move on to the next game,’ ” said first-year coach Jeff Cassar. “And that's what we’re gonna do. We’re moving on to the next game.”
That next game is Wednesday night at Columbus, followed by a home match Saturday night against Portland.
“We knew these three games before the break were going to be difficult, so there’s a lot of guys probably called on Wednesday that need to step up. And we just need to push forward together,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. “I think we’ve lost plenty of games in this league, and so to be honest with you I’m not really that concerned. I’m not that concerned with the result (against Seattle).
“It would’ve been great to get another one, but we move on, we move forward. It’s like we always say, ‘Not too high, not too low.’ ”
In moving on, RSL hopes to get its previously high-flying offensive attack moving again.
Salt Lake scored 23 goals in its first 11 matches but failed to get on the score sheet — or muster very many scoring opportunities — in a scoreless draw against Dallas two weeks ago or in a 4-0 loss to Seattle Saturday.
Granted, starting forwards Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata have both been on the sideline. Saborio, who will miss the next “three to four” months with a foot injury, has been away with the Costa Rica national team, while Plata hobbled off with an injured hamstring in the first half of the Dallas draw. (Cassar said after Saturday’s loss to Seattle that “it looks like Joao’s going to come back.”)
Additionally, things were extremely difficult for their replacements the past two matches. Dallas was content to park players in front of its box in hopes of securing a point, and finding goals in Seattle is difficult in the best of times — not to mention when several players are missing and things just don’t go as planned.
To break out of its scoring slump, Grabavoy suggested RSL may have to turn to other sources.
“I said before the week started that we just have to make sure other guys are stepping up as well,” said Grabavoy. “We’ve been pretty good at finding goals from midfield. We certainly have to find goals from set pieces, corner kicks. We’ve given a lot of those up, and we need to start scoring some of those as well. So it’s a collective group effort to keep finding different ways to score goals.”
In doing so, the club hopes to quickly move on after losing to Seattle in what was a battle of the top two teams in the MLS standings.
“The mood in the locker room is: We wanna get back out there,” said RSL defender Tony Beltran. “We know we’re better than that. We’ll see these guys again.”
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