SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake know they have to get better.
Sure, they've gotten a result in all seven games since the season began and remain MLS' sole unbeaten team at 3-0-4.
But their play has been inconsistent, particularly on the offensive end of the field. They've been plagued by poor passes and inconsistency. Were it not for some spectacular performances by goalkeeper Nick Rimando and backup Jeff Attinella, Salt Lake wouldn't have beaten the Portland Timbers 1-0 and wouldn't have held Sporting Kansas City to a scoreless tie.
With the exception of a 3-0 win over Toronto FC on March 29, RSL haven't come close to playing the kind of complete game the team aims to play – it's been more about hanging on for narrow wins or ties.
“But it's still early,” defender Chris Wingert told MLSsoccer.com. “We've got to keep trying to grind out results. But I think we do have the confidence that we can get a result, no matter the situation.”
However, RSL coach Jeff Cassar acknowledged, “You can only do that for so long, hanging on like that.”
This past Saturday, the Claret-and-Cobalt came away with a win over the Timbers despite giving them a number of great chances.
“We gifted those chances to them on poor turnovers,” Cassar told MLSsoccer.com. “At no point did they break us down, we just gave up the ball in tough areas and they got after us.”
Which is something RSL has to be worried about when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town for a Saturday matchup (9:30 pm ET, MLS Live in the US, TSN2 in Canada). Salt Lake's defense, which is not the fastest in the league, will be facing the Whitecaps' speedy quartet of Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh, Kenny Miller and Pedro Morales, who have combined to score eight goals this season.
“They've got a ton of good attacking talent and a ton of speed,” Wingert said.
RSL midfielder Javier Morales said they have to “be smart” to negate their pace in the attack.
“We have to keep the ball for long possession and try to score first,” Morales told MLSsoccer.com. “If we score first, then they have to come out a little bit and maybe stretch out.”
Cassar hasn't been using it as an excuse, but it's not hard to see that a big part of the reason RSL haven’t been consistently playing the kind of soccer the team in known for – possession and precision passing – has a lot to do with a string of preseason and early-season injuries
Salt Lake have not put the same starting lineup on the field in consecutive games this season. For that matter, they have not put the same starting lineup on the field in any two games this season.
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“It's been tough, but everyone on this team can contribute,” Cassar said.
But heading into Saturday's game against Vancouver, the Real injury report is the shortest it’s been for any game this season. The only two confirmed absences are defender Richie Balchan, still recovering from an adductor strain, and forward Robbie Findley, continuing to work his way back from offseason knee surgery.
“Knock on wood,” Cassar said with a laugh.