SANDY, Utah — While Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis is clearly pleased that his club is taking a 4-2 lead into the second leg of the Western Conference Championship, he's not particularly happy about how long he'll have to wait to face Portland again. When the rivals meet again for the second leg on Nov. 24 at JELD-WEN Field, two weeks will have passed.
“I'd prefer not to wait two weeks to play our next match,” he said. “I'd like to continue this team's momentum because we've had so many starts and stops this year, they've been really tough to deal with.”
Since the end of August, RSL has had three long breaks between matches — 14 days, 14 days and 11 days. And the results weren't good: a 2-0 loss at Seattle; a 0-0 tie in Portland; and a 1-0 loss at LA. Three games, no goals.
At the same time, Kreis said he wasn't particularly happy about playing Portland on Sunday night, just three days after the Claret-and-Cobalt dispatched the two-time defending champion LA Galaxy in overtime of the Western Conference Semifinals.
“I preferred not to play a game three nights later after our players played 120 minutes,” he said. “But now, it's OK.”
RSL have shown remarkable resilience in quick turnarounds. In all competitions this season when the team had only three or four days between matches, they are 13-2-3. With breaks of 10 days or more, RSL are 2-2-1. And they haven't won a game on a long break since July 13.
Kreis has tried going easy on his players during those long breaks; he's tried making it hard on them. This time around, he's going to try both.
The group of players who has been on the field for most of the minutes in those three matches in eight days is going to be “more on the resting side.” The group that got few or no minutes will be doing “some fitness work” because “as we've seen, any injury can happen at any time. And we need those guys to be ready to step in.
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"Some guys are going to work hard,” Kreis said, “some guys are going to work kind of hard, and that's it. Nobody will work easy.”
Whether they like the break or not, there's nothing anybody in Salt Lake or Portland can do about it.
“It is what it is,” Kreis said, “so we'll just do our best. They've got a two-week break as well and so we'll probably both be dealing with a little bit of rustiness in the match.”