Real Salt Lake have been hung over for almost a week, says Nick Rimando. And they're finally starting to sober up.
No one can fault RSL for being mentally exhausted over the past week – in just seven days, they saw their CONCACAF Champions League dreams go up in smoke, their 37-game unbeaten run at home across all competitions snapped and their 18-game unbeaten run in MLS play ground to a halt in Portland.
It’s been enormously draining, goalkeeper Nick Rimando admitted to MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. But at long last, it looks like the team is getting back on its feet.
“It was a tough week,” Rimando said by phone after training. “As much as we wanted to rebound in Portland, I think just playing that game helped us get over [the loss to Monterrey].”
According to Rimando, most of the team started to pick their heads back up in the days after the stunning loss last week at Rio Tinto Stadium, although a few – particularly striker Fabian Espindola – took the defeat especially hard.
Still, their 1-0 loss to the Timbers was a bit surprising, Rimando says. Salt Lake had expected Portland to apply pressure and try to exploit set-piece and cross situations. Sure enough, the Timbers’ lone goal came off a cross from the left wing to Kenny Cooper, who lost his marker in Nat Borchers and poked home the eventual winning goal in the 22nd minute.
“We couldn’t get the ball,” Rimando lamented. “We knew they’d pressure us and they did, which was fine. But their goal was drawn up, and of course it was through a [cross]. ... As bad as it was, we really have no excuses – we played terrible.”
Rimando readily admits the team was still dazed after the CCL loss – he says it was even harder to take last Friday morning, two days after the match, as the reality started to sink in.
“I woke up hoping it was a dream,” he laughed.
The silver lining, however, is that RSL are putting arguably the franchise’s worst week in four years behind them and are already in better spirits and re-focused on the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup races.
“The majority of us are not putting our heads down,” Rimando said. “Today at training, spirits were good.”
That starts on Saturday back at Rio Tinto in a date with surging Chivas USA (4 pm ET, TeleFutura). Rimando feels that the visit from the team coached by their old assistant, Robin Fraser, is suddenly a key date in their schedule and one in which RSL must assert themselves quickly.
“I don’t want to say it’s a must-win, but it’s a game where we should win and get back on track,” he said. “They’re a good team, but it’s a game we’ll put everything on line to remind ourselves what a good team we are.”