SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake are one game away from tying the record for the longest season-opening unbeaten streak in MLS history. But the streak itself is far from the main topic of conversation at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I didn't know,” RSL midfielder Javier Morales said with a laugh. “It's good to be unbeaten, but I do not count the games.”
Almost a third of the way into the season, RSL (6-0-5) are just one game short of tying the LA Galaxy for the longest opening undefeated streak since the league began play in 1996. The Galaxy opened that season 12-0, although there were no ties in MLS at the time, because shootouts determined winners if the score was tied at the end of regulation.
While the club's focus remains more on Saturday's game against FC Dallas (9:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE) than on the historic ramifications of a win or tie, defender Tony Beltran admitted that setting a new record would be a meaningful feather in the club's cap.
“I think records are great,” Beltran said. “We want to set records. We want to be the first to do things in this club. We want to be the best.”
Beltrain said the team “took pride in” setting a league record with a 34-game home unbeaten streak (29 regular season) in all competitions from 2009-11, a mark since surpassed by the Houston Dynamo's 36-game streak (30 regular season) from 2011-13.
“That was really cool,” Beltran said. “We want to be an elite team. Those kinds of things set you apart. But again, it's not something you're paranoid about, you're worried about, you're over-thinking.”
Beltran added that no one has any illusions about going through the MLS regular season unbeaten.
“We all know it's going to end,” he said.
However, point out to Beltran — an Arsenal fan — that the Gunners went unbeaten (26-0-12) in the 2003-04 English Premier League campaign, and he admits that “maybe in the back, back of your mind, you think, 'Wow, that'd be really cool to go the entire season undefeated.' But we're 11 games into a very, very long season.”
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First-year coach Jeff Cassar, who can tie 1996 Galaxy coach Lothar Osiander for the best start by a first-year MLS coach, insists not only that he is not paying attention, but that the streak does not matter.
“It's not about anything personal or a team record,” he told reporters. “It's really just getting three points to get back to the playoffs — to get back to where we want to be."
C'mon, Cassar was asked this week: If your team wins on Saturday night and gets the three points, will you at some point on Sunday reflect on the fact that you've tied that record?
“No. Not at all,” Cassar said with a laugh. “I have some friends outside the game who are fans of the team, and they talk a little bit about it. But it's honestly nothing that we're discussing. It's going to be nice if we get it, but it really doesn't do anything for us making the playoffs or returning to the MLS Cup (final).”
By not focusing on the streak, Real Salt Lake hope to avoid any sort of big letdown when it does, finally, come to an end.
“If we can beat that mark, good for us,” Morales told reporters. “If not, we have to keep working to improve the team, to improve our soccer.”