SANDY, Utah – Heading into Saturday's game at Crew Stadium (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online), Real Salt Lake are in desperate need of a positive result.
Under normal circumstances, hoping to right a listing ship on the road isn't exactly the situation a team or coach would wish for. But after RSL dropped a pair of home games last week, perhaps getting on the road is just what the doctor ordered.
"Right now, we feel a little bit jinxed at home, so to go away and narrow our focus a little bit might be a good thing," head coach Jason Kreis said.
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Ironically enough for RSL, the team is having its best season in franchise history on the road (4-2-2 for 14 points) while suffering four home losses through all competitions only midway through the season – more than it has had in the last two seasons in their entirety.
Most players seem to place the blame on the defense and the lack of overall concentration on team defense.
"I think we have to tighten things up in the back," said defender Nat Borchers. "Even when we have a ton of chances in a game and we can't finish, that's going to happen. But at the back, we just can't give up silly mistakes. … It's something where we need to get back to getting shutouts and that starts at the back."
"We are a little bit weak right now," said midfielder Will Johnson. "We're not finishing plays, games. We're not staying sharp, focused throughout the whole play. The goals we are giving up are really poor mistakes."
The defense hasn't been that far off. It isn't as if the team needs a complete overall or a change in tactics. RSL have simply had mental lapses that have resulted in the team giving up 19 goals already this season through 17 games. In comparison, they gave up 20 goals in 30 games during their record-breaking defensive effort of the 2010 season.
"You look at the goals scored again," Kreis said of not needing to panic defensively. "Against LA, we gave them two goals. We gave them the ball in our own half, own third, and one counter-attack goal.
“You could talk about a little bit of defensive adjustment there, maybe. Then against San Jose it was a set-piece goal and a throw-in. There isn't a whole lot to talk about other than doing a little bit better defending dead balls and not giving away the ball in our own half the field."
For Salt Lake to get back to their winning ways, they know they need to improve on the defensive side of the ball, a task that will be more difficult without All-Star Jámison Olave, who is out with the same calf injury that forced him to miss the match against San Jose.
But with Chris Wingert expected to slide back into the middle and Terakazu Tanaka to start at outside back, RSL know there is no way they can lose the game if they can cut out the mistakes.
"We're leaking a lot of goals," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "I think it's coming from a ton of different things. Whether it's turnovers in the midfield, turnovers in the back or we're not awake on half set pieces. To be one of the best teams, you can't give up goals like that."