RSL hope first win has domino effect
All season long, Real Salt Lake's coaches and players have said all they needed was the first win.
After that, the victories would start coming faster, show up more often and be a lot easier to achieve. This Saturday is RSL's chance to show it knew what it was talking about as the Kansas City Wizards come to Rice-Eccles Stadium.
To be sure, beating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 last Saturday brought an overwhelming sense of relief to the team. Prior to the game, RSL had lost 18 consecutive games, had never won a road game and had never won a game on grass.
Now, the second-year club can put all that in the past.
"It was bearing down on all of us very hard, and now it feels extremely good, extremely good," captain Jason Kreis said.
With a win over the defending MLS Cup champion on the record, the team is feeling ready for anything.
"I felt like we deserved a point from that game, and after that second goal we felt like we had that game won," forward Jeff Cunningham said. "It was just a great feeling. The team's morale and confidence is high right now."
That confidence should serve RSL well against Kansas City, currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference.
"[The players] feel confident that we're going to win more games," Ellinger said. "Kansas City is a good team; they are disciplined, they work extremely hard, they get people behind the ball defensively, and they get a lot of guys going forward."
In an effort to save his team's strength, Ellinger is keeping outdoor practices short in the balmy May weather this week.
"[Kansas City] is a hard team to play," Ellinger said. "We are definitely going to have to work as hard as them, or outwork them."
The victory against Los Angeles was only the second time in team history Real have scored three goals. It was also the first time this season the team earned a shutout.
"Offensively, we are creating more chances and are scoring more goals, but we defended well too," coach John Ellinger said. "One goal would have done it, and that was a huge hurdle for us."
It was only the fifth shutout RSL has earned since the team's inception, and the team did it without the help of starters Eddie Pope and Douglas Sequeira, who were away training with their respective national teams in preparation for the World Cup.
Credit defenders Nelson Akwari, Kevin Novak, Willis Forko and Daniel Torres, along with goalkeeper Scott Garlick (who recorded eight saves) for the shutout. With two key players missing, Novak filled in at right back with his first start of the season while Forko and Akwari started for only the second time.
Ellinger moved Carey Talley from the defense and started him as a holding midfielder, a new position for him with RSL. Ellinger said Talley seemed a little taken aback at first, but he filled in well for Sequeira.
"He's very comfortable in there, and he stepped up in there and it was great," Ellinger said.
Talley got two assists, one on the game-winner to Atiba Harris and another to Jeff Cunningham. "For [Talley] to contribute offensively, it was just a bonus for us," Ellinger said.
Peter Richins is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.