SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake started the 2011 season looking to be juggernauts at home, with three straight victories. Since then, they’ve picked up just one additional win to go along with a loss and two stale draws.
They hope to get back to their winning ways on Saturday against a Toronto FC team that’s hovering near the bottom of the table (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
The real issue is the lack of a consistent attack as RSL scored six goals in those three early victories, but have scored just four times at home since then. And at least part of that comes down to manpower.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like it in one position,” said midfielder Will Johnson of the continual struggles to field healthy players up top. “It’s been tough, but we still are battling through it. And eventually we’re going to get guys back — get our strikers back, and get guys in roles that they’re more comfortable with. But right now, we’ve just got to make do with the guys that we’ve got.”
Coach Jason Kreis says all of this lineup juggling has been quite unexpected.
“I wouldn’t have guessed that we would have been relying on or playing an apprentice player [Artur Aghasyan] and a 17-year old player [Luis Gil] that’s not even really a forward for the majority of that Chicago game, but credit to them,” said Kreis. “I thought they both worked really hard. Both had some really good plays and made positive contributions to the team.”
However, the injuries that Arturo Alvarez (hamstring) and Álvaro Saborío (knee, ankle) have dealt with while on Gold Cup duty are just part of the game, according to Kreis.
“It’s the risk that you are always going to run,” he admitted. “Soccer is the way that it is, and you have to respect international callups. Often times you’re going to get back injured players, and it’s not a great situation for clubs.”
Regardless of that, RSL will be vying for a win on their home turf.
“We approach every game at home the same,” explained Johnson. “Three points is the goal. I don’t think tomorrow night is any different. Tomorrow night we want three points.”
However, standing in their way will be Toronto FC.
“It’s a new group, it’s a new team,” offered Kreis about the Reds, "and I think you are seeing some of the same struggles that any new teams have. They haven’t been the most cohesive unit defensively or offensively. I think it’s also a dangerous opponent because you have to couple the fact that we had a game on Wednesday — they didn’t have a game on Wednesday — with their fighting mentality and how much it could mean for them to get a result here.
“And we desperately need three points.”