SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake may be two games away from claiming the CONCACAF Champions League trophy, but they have their sights on more than just a continental title and a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup.
RSL want to be the best team in MLS this year and they want to prove it during the regular season.
“It’s all fine and dandy to say we may have been the best team for some stretches of last year,” manager Jason Kreis said. “But we weren’t the best team last year – LA was. The proof is always in the pudding. They had more points than we did, and so they were the best team last season. [The Supporters’ Shield] is something that we’d like to achieve this year.”
Last year, many applauded the play of Real Salt Lake for their play after the month of May. After all, the club only lost one regular-season game through that stretch. But according to Kreis, that just wasn’t good enough.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman says that the team learned something from the LA Galaxy’s fast start in 2010, something they are hoping to emulate.
“We’re now really concentrating on getting as many wins in the first half of the season, and get out to a big lead,” the RSL captain said.
He feels like his team can set the standard for the rest of the league, by being the best team in the league from start to finish.
“I think I’ve seen other teams do it in the past,” said Beckerman. “I look around the league, and think that when we play our best we can beat anybody, and should beat anybody.”
RSL have come a long way from the team that shocked American soccer by coming away MLS Cup 2009 after a magical playoff run.
The 2010 season was designed to prove to everyone, that the trophy was not a fluke. However, elimination in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs at the hands of FC Dallas has left RSL hungry for more.
“I hope that there is a bit of that in our minds still,” Kreis said about the bitter loss to the eventual MLS Cup 2010 finalists. “I hope that we all remember the disappointing end of the season last year and approach every match this year with a chip on our shoulders.”
The team has certainly gotten out to a fast start with three straight wins. Although Kreis exercises caution, defensive stalwart Nat Borchers knows one of the secrets to his teams fast start.
“I think the Champions League has helped us to stay sharp,” Borchers said. “I think we raised our level to play against Saprissa [in the semifinals], and when we came back and played against LA and New England, it definitely helped us.”
And it never hurts to play at Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL enjoy a 36-game unbeaten streak (28 in MLS, five in Champions League and three friendlies).
While Borchers hopes it won’t happen against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night (9 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live), he realizes that the streak will someday come to an end.
“There’s going to be a time when we will lose here – it’s going to happen,” admitted the Colorado native. “Not every bounce is going to go our way. But as long as we play good soccer, we’ll give ourselves a decent chance.”