LEHI, Utah — It was an unexpected break at the halfway point of the season, but Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis appears to have embraced the short refuge from action caused by the cancelled match in Vancouver last weekend.
“My opinion on it right now is that it may have been exactly what we needed,” said Kreis after a training session on Friday. “We’ve got some rest, both physically and mentally. [The players have] shown us in training this week that they look like they’re sharp and ready for a game.”
With 17 league games down, and 17 to go, midfielder Ned Grabavoy recapped his club’s first half of the season.
“There was a lot that happened, obviously,” Grabavoy explained. “You could say that it was a long first half of the season. We were obviously in the Open Cup and knocked out of that, [we were] in CONCACAF [Champions League] and fell short of that a little bit.”
The team has faced more missed games due to injury and international call-ups than they have in any previous full season, according to GM Garth Lagerwey. This fact wasn’t lost on Grabavoy.
“We dealt with a lot of injuries, especially in our attack the first half of the season,” he said. “I think we’re just getting back to the point where we’re getting all of our forwards healthy at the same time. I don’t think [Álvaro] Saborío and [Fabián] Espíndola have played together since April.”
According to Kreis, the team is getting healthier. He indicated that Cody Arnoux will be in consideration for selection “very shortly” and that Paulo Jr. is improving.
“Paulo, we think, is about two weeks away,” Kreis said. “We are going to be very cautious and take it very much small step by small step with him. But the thought is that two weeks from now, we could be considering him.”
Despite all of the adversity, Grabavoy feels like the team has performed admirably.
“We accumulated a good amount of points, I think,” he said. “Right now, there are less people talking about us than a couple of other teams in the league. I think we’ve always been kind of good in that role. We had that role in CONCACAF a little bit. We had that role in 2009 on the way to the playoffs. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier without the target on our back. We’ll just keep flying under the radar and doing what we do.”
Grabavoy’s counterpart in the midfield, Will Johnson, indicated that the next few weeks in particular will be critical as Real Salt Lake play two consecutive matches at home before hitting the road for four away games in the following five matches. This stretch could prove to be critical as RSL look to keep pace with the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas and the resurgent Seattle Sounders.
“We need to pick up some points, catch up to the other group, and then we’ve got to maintain the gap at the top,” Grabavoy said. “Obviously we’re going on the road a lot and it’s going to be a lot more of a challenge.”