Expectations tempered as RSL eye second in Shield hunt
LEHI, Utah – It’s still mathematically possible that Real Salt Lake overtake the LA Galaxy to win the Supporters’ Shield. But after two consecutive lackluster losses, reality is setting in for the Claret-and-Cobalt. Lofty dreams of regular-season success have been replaced by more humble aspirations.
“In particular it would be nice to finish second in the Supporter’s Shield race because then we give ourselves a little insurance policy to qualify for CONCACAF,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday’s practice session.
The hope is that if the Galaxy reach MLS Cup, they would automatically earn a berth in CCL. Then, should RSL finish second in the Shield race, they would automatically earn a CCL spot regardless of how they finish in the postseason.
“Having said that, we’ll only get those results if we’re really focused on how we’re performing. So we’ve got to be really focused on just trying to improve now, and get ourselves ready for the playoffs,” Kreis said.
After going on a tear of five straight wins, RSL have stumbled, losing 4-1 to D.C. United on Sept. 24 before following up with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“Anytime you take negative results, and especially in the fashion that we took these results [against D.C. and Chicago] – to be thumped in both of them – can really affect the confidence,” admitted Kreis.
The current slump is particularly frustrating in a season in which the Claret-and-Cobalt have been forced to deal with multiple absences due to injury and international duty. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the squad have struggled to maintain a strong run of form.
“There have been ups and downs,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy explained. “I think there is that for every team. Ours are probably a bit more drastic.”
“We’re all professionals here,” continued Grabavoy. “[These two results] are embarrassing, but at the same time I don’t think we’re going to doubt ourselves or lack any confidence going forward, so that’s a key.”
RSL can only hope: Their next match is against the Galaxy on Saturday at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). A win could close the gap in the Shield race to seven points with three games to go.
“Anybody who can’t get up for that game need to have their head checked,” pointed out Kreis, “… or heart checked.”