Back to basics for RSL after emotional roller coaster

Will Johnson

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LEHI, Utah — After finishing a 2009 season in which his team won MLS Cup following a late-season push for the playoffs, RSL head coach Jason Kreis spent the early portion of the 2010 season preaching one key thing: consistency.

Perhaps consistency is in order again this season, though this time it may be a matter of leveling out emotions.

“When you are at the very top, things seem better than they are,” midfielder Will Johnson explained at training thie sweek. “And when you are at the very low points of your season, it seems like the world is ending. So we’ve got to maybe do a better job of balancing our emotions after performances, whether they are good or bad.”  

RSL's roller-coaster started with an incredible run in the CONCACAF Champions League that ended in disappointment at the final hurdle. The emotional letdown was immediate.

Then, following a loss at Portland shortly after, the team had a chance to regroup at Rio Tinto Stadium for a home game against Chivas USA. However, a horrific injury to star playmaker Javier Morales perhaps furthered the emotional turmoil the team has been experiencing.

“Obviously there’s been a lot of adversity that we’ve faced — losing that [CCL] game and with losing Javier," Johnson said. “It took a huge physical toll on us, an emotional toll.”

Johnson, however, said the team has gotten past the disappointment of losing out on the CCL, for which they had invested significant energy.

“I don’t know if it’s still lingering from losing that one game,” he said. “I think that we’ve put that behind us, but obviously we haven’t played up to our potential since then.”  

According to Johnson, the solution for returning to that early-season form — and confidence — is very simple.  

“We need to go back to the basics of what made this team an elite team — hard work, discipline, fighting for the guy next to you — all of those things, and not get caught up in being the second-best team in the region because that’s over now," Johnson said. "We’ve got to go back to what got us to be successful.”

Johnson pointed to their most recent match — a scoreless tie in Houston — as an example that the team has strayed away from what had made it successful.  

“I'’m not sure that we can say that we out-worked Houston,” Johnson admitted. “That’s just a simple fact, so we might be getting away from things that are our bread and butter — and we just need to be conscious of it.”

However, one thing that Johnson insists on is that the players remain confident in themselves.

“I think I can speak for most of the guys: We understand that we’re a good team, and we’ve got a lot of talented guys," Johnson said. "I don’t think our confidence is down; I just think we’ve got to just reset, take a breath and get at it again.”