SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake couldn’t have picked a worse time to go on a three-game losing streak. They’re in need of positive results immediately, but the deck may be stacked against them Thursday night in Vancouver (9:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
They’ll be without seven key players when they become the second guests at renovated BC Place, facing a Whitecaps side motivated to get their first win in their new home. Dropping points in Vancouver is not an option.
“We can speak as positively and as confidently as we want,” head coach Jason Kreis told MLSsoccer.com shortly before leaving for British Columbia, “but if we don’t win some games, I can tell you that I won’t be and I don’t think the players will be positive going into the playoffs.”
RSL will be missing Kyle Beckerman, Álvaro Saborío, Will Johnson and Jean Alexandre on Thursday night due to international call-ups, as well as Fabián Espíndola to yellow-card accumulation. Meanwhile, Arturo Alvarez has been granted a personal leave after a death in his family, while newly signed midfielder Yordany Álvarez was unable to travel to Canada due to visa issues. That’s a large number of absences for a team looking to overturn a spell in which they’ve been outscored 9-2 over a three-game stretch.
“I think we’re fine,” insisted goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who will report to US camp in Florida following Thursday’s match. “I think we’ve got enough veterans on this team and smart coaches to know that just because of two games, three games, [that] doesn’t make us a bad team. ... But come playoff time, if you don’t get your result, you’re done.”
Kreis takes heart in Salt Lake’s performance in their last match, a solid performance at LA despite ultimately losing 2-1 to the Galaxy.
“We did a lot of positive things in that game that we need to draw on and continue forward,” he said. “If we play like that in the majority of our matches, we’re going to be just fine. That’s what we need to look for now is improvement in every match.”
Despite the losing skid, Kreis feels like his squad is near hitting its stride before the postseason.
“My assessment is that we’re close,” he said. “We’re close to being exactly where we want to be. We’re not there yet, and we need some results to back everything up.”
In addition to getting playoff-ready, there are other considerations that make the remaining three games on the schedule significant. Kreis pointed out that if RSL can finish third in the overall standings, they have an outside shot of returning to the CONCACAF Champions League due to second-place Seattle already booking a spot with their US Open Cup trophy and first-place LA all but assured of the Supporters’ Shield.
If either team reaches the MLS Cup final, a play-in berth in the 2012-13 CCL would fall to the third-place finisher.
“There is a lot to play for still,” Kreis said.