SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake are standing with their backs against the wall.
Down 1-0 heading into Thursday's second leg of their Western Conference Semifinal of the MLS Cup Playoffs against the LA Galaxy (9 pm ET; ESPN2), things are stacked in the visitors' favor. RSL have struggled against teams trying to protect leads in Rio Tinto Stadium this season.
And that will be the situation on Thursday night.
“I think that this game, unfortunately, plays to the Galaxy's strength,” Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis admitted to reporters on Wednesday. “It's what they do well. They defend very well, and they counter very well.”
Which is great for a team that already has the lead.
“We understand that we are in a dangerous position,” Kreis said. “But, so what?”
He wasn't being flip. He wasn't being combative. He was simply pointing out that, dangerous position or not, his team simply has to outscore LA by at least one goal to stay alive for overtime and, perhaps, a shootout.
“No reason to be down,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told reporters. “We also played the whole season to be in a situation to get into a position where you have the second leg at your place. It's all there for us.”
RSL's coach and his players repeatedly pointed to the home field advantage they'll enjoy against the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy. They brushed off talk of the franchise's past failures in big home games.
“We know the match is going to look different and feel different in front of our home fans,” Kreis said. “We need to look forward. It's fine to look at the past just to see the areas that you can correct, but you can't dwell on it. You have to move forward. And what's forward of us is 90 minutes in front of our home fans.”
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They'll try to move forward by taking a step back. There's no talk of repeating the defensive, 4-5-1 formation RSL played for most of Sunday's loss. There's plenty of talk of going back to their diamond midfield formation.
“We will put them back in their shape, and we'll see how that goes,” Kreis said.
There's also lots of talk about having to play better, at the same time acknowledging the Galaxy could play better than they did on Sunday night, as well. When it was suggested that RSL had already absorbed the Galaxy's best shot and were only down by a goal, defender Chris Wingert disagreed with the premise of the question.
“I don't know if they took their best shot because when they take their best shots, they score,” he told reporters, pointing to all the opportunities Galaxy forwards Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan failed to finish on Sunday.
“We've got to make sure that we keep playing good defense,” Wingert said, “because it's going to be a long game. We've got to make sure we don't get too stretched out because that will play into their hands.
“We know what we need to do, now we need to get on the field and do it.”
The Claret-and-Cobalt expressed nothing but respect for the Galaxy, but at the same time sounded more than a bit optimistic about their own chances.
“Yeah, I hope we are optimistic,” Kreis said. “Otherwise, what are we doing here? The objective is very clear to us, and we're in a comfortable position to know what we have to do.”