Real Salt Lake shift focus after USOC disappointment

Nat Borchers

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SANDY, Utah — It’s not the first time Real Salt Lake have experienced losing out on an opportunity to win some hardware during the middle of this MLS season.

Earlier in the year, head coach Jason Kreis’ men fell to Mexican side Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League. Now, after a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas on Tuesday saw the Claret-and-Cobalt’s pursuit of the US Open Cup come to a premature end, RSL were again left to pick up the pieces following an obviously disappointing defeat.

“We need to get back on track where we’re winning games and getting results on the road,” said defender Nat Borchers after the match.

RSL, however, are used to shifting their priorities. They came into the season intent on going all the way in Champions League play before losing to Monterrey in the final. From there, RSL’s focus shifted to Open Cup play. But now that that’s out of the way, their attention has shifted solely to league competition.

“The Open Cup is over now and we have to wash our hands of it and put it in the past,” said Borchers. “This was a tough result for us, but now we can focus on the league, and that is the most important thing for us.”

RSL now face a similar task to the one they encountered after their CCL heartbreak. Following their April 27 loss to Monterrey, RSL headed to the Pacific Northwest to take on expansion side Portland Timbers just three days later. The result was a 1-0 loss that just added to their already disappointing week.

On Saturday, Real Salt Lake will look to avoid a repeat of that experience, as they once again head to the Pacific Northwest to face another expansion team in the Vancouver Whitecaps (4 pm ET; watch LIVE online). But without any other competitions to occupy their minds and with the rest of the MLS season looming ahead, RSL are hoping for a better result this time around.

“We’ve got a big test in front of us at Vancouver and we’ll have to play well on the road to get a result,” said Borchers. “They’ve got a tough environment to deal with, so we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game on Saturday.”

The team has made no bones about the fact that their primary goal is to get back into the Champions League, and their two remaining paths to get there are through success within the league. The first is to win the Supporters' Shield — a race in which RSL currently sit nine points behind frontrunners LA Galaxy — and the second is by winning the MLS Cup.

RSL have shown that they can compete for both: They won MLS Cup in 2009 and finished as runners-up for the Shield by a narrow margin last season.

But to finish the season with one at least one of the two titles, it’ll be important that they shift gears mentally and don’t dwell on their USOC letdown.

“It’s important that we respond,” said Kreis after the loss in Dallas. “That was a game where we didn’t put in the right energy and a lot of things weren’t right with it. … We need to move forward very quickly and we need to move forward together.”