Jason Kreis has stressed the need to improve defense during preseason.

Home dates to help RSL prep for Champs League

Real Salt Lake got a big assist from MLS with Thursday's release of the 2011 regular-season schedule, which keeps the team close to home during the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League. That fact wasn't lost on general manager Garth Lagerwey.

“I think it’s good for us from a CONCACAF perspective,” Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday after spending time scouting Salt Lake’s Champions League opponent, Columbus. “We’re off a couple of weekends where we may have CONCACAF games, and so that’s helpful.”

The schedule sees Real Salt Lake with a heavily weighted home schedule in the first half of the season. Between April 23 and June 4, the team has five of its seven contests at home. Continuing into June and July, RSL have six of their next 10 matches at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the team enjoyed an unblemished season a year ago.

Of course, the team must pay the piper in the second half of the season, which will see a lot of road time. That includes a stretch of nine out of 12 away from Rio Tinto between Aug. 3 and Oct. 14th.

The team also has something unique this season: three “matinee” matchups starting on May 7 at home vs. Chivas USA, July 16 at Vancouver and Sept. 10 at Seattle. However, none of those are likely to be brutally hot scorchers, with the lone summer matchup coming in the mild climate of Vancouver.

From Lagerwey’s perspective, that’s just a nuance that teams deal with every year.

“I think that there is good and bad, as there is with every schedule," he said. "I think you can tie yourself in knots over-analyzing the schedule.”

Overall, the schedule has that one aspect that’s most important to Lagerwey, and to Real Salt Lake: It’s Champions League-friendly.

“During CONCACAF, I want to be home or off as much as possible so we can focus on that tournament," he said. "For me, that’s the single most critical piece. That will give us the best possible chance to win that tournament, and we got that. I’m very, very happy about that.”

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