SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake are still reeling from a bitter disappointment earlier this week, but still face the reality of another big game this Saturday as they welcome FC Dallas knowing a win will clinch them a sixth straight playoff berth (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
And after their 1-0 defeat to visiting D.C. United in Tuesday's US Open Cup final, RSL head coach Jason Kreis put the onus on his players to find a way to bounce back from the shocking defeat.
Kreis' team took the message to heart and held a players-only meeting Friday before training — a meeting that came without the coach's knowledge, and held specifically to address how they would tackle the rest of the season.
"This is the first I heard of it," said Kreis when asked if he liked the idea of the players' meeting. "I always think those things are good. It's one thing for me to deliver messages and try to lead the way that I know how — from the heart. Sometimes, it's more important for them to talk with each other and sort it out inside the locker room."
Without divulging details, the players expressed that the message from the meeting was clear.
"We had a players-only meeting this morning and got through some stuff and everybody is on the same page now," said defender Nat Borchers after training on Friday. "We know what we have to do. There's no sense in dwelling on the result from Tuesday night. We're moving forward and looking forward to Dallas.
"It was positive," he continued. "We are a positive group. We are looking to move forward and we are learning from our mistakes. Everybody understands what we need to do to get better and move forward now."
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy echoed the thoughts of his teammate.
"I don't think too much was said. What was said in there stays in there, but it was all real positive – really short, really positive," said Grabavoy. "We know we need to move forward, and we have a chance to do that tomorrow."
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Though Dallas have struggled in the second half of the season, RSL know that it would be foolish to overlook an opponent desperate for points as they try to move back into the playoff picture.
"For me, I think it is the third opponent in a row really that we go into a game and you say this team that we're playing is on the outside looking in at the playoffs and should be incredibly hungry and they know they have to have the three points," said Kreis. "So it's again, third time in a row a really difficult opponent in league play."
While RSL can clinch a spot in the postseason with a win, that isn't necessarily going to be the focus.
"I think just a positive result right now is more important than clinching the playoffs or not clinching the playoffs," said Kreis. "A positive performance leading to a positive result is what this group needs right now."