SANDY, Utah — There is no question finding success on the road in MLS is difficult, and Real Salt Lake are no exception, having struggled to find points away from the Beehive State throughout their nine-year history.
But if there is one place RSL have been able get results, it is the StubHub Center – known as the Home Depot Center until this past June.
Even against the perennial contenders like the LA Galaxy, Real are a comfortable 5-6-1 in MLS regular-season play on their opponents' home ground — about as close to break-even as you can get at the home of the two-time defending MLS Cup champions — including victories there over the Galaxy in their last three meetings. How have they done it?
"It is tough to put your finger on it," said defender Tony Beltran following training on Friday. "We really enjoy going to LA. Maybe the fact it is at sea level, maybe the fact it is not too far of a flight or maybe it’s the fact it is a big, nice field so there is space for us to play and keep the ball on the ground.
"But whatever the reason, we do like going there, and we want to continue to go there and get results because especially with the Galaxy, it is a challenger in the West and a challenger for the Supporters' Shield."
RSL's play in Southern California certainly flies in the face of the conventional wisdom in MLS is that road teams generally don't post many wins and a draw is almost always considered a good result away from home.
"I think it speaks to again, how difficult it is to travel in our league," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "I don't think it should be any surprise that the places that are closest to us is where we have more success. They are easier flights, there are a lot more of those flights; you can pick out exactly what time of day you would like to go. You can take care of your bodies better. And I think the last thing is a lot of our players have a lot of family that is there."
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Still, both teams in this series have had success in recent encounters on the road. In fact, RSL’s victory in the last meeting was the first for a home team in the series since 2011, when the teams split their two encounters.
Weather, elevation, proximity and family all play a part in RSL having success in the StubHub Center, but one more very important factor plays a role in posting road results against the Galaxy: motivation.
"Everybody definitely gets up for the game against the Galaxy," said Beckerman. "It is something they have to handle because they have the DPs, and they have been so good for quite a while now. We always want to beat the Galaxy and it is extra sweet when you can do it at their place."