SANDY, Utah — If Real Salt Lake are to make a run in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, their attack will need to rediscover their scoring touch.
After playing to a 3-3 home draw with the LA Galaxy on Sept. 7, Real Salt Lake have failed to score multiple goals in a game and have been shut out four times in six matches. A remedy for Salt Lake’s attack needs to arrive by Wednesday’s Western Conference Knockout Round game on the road against the Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, UniMas) or the season will end with even more frustration and disappointment.
RSL are confident that one will come, though.
“We feel good about ourselves, and the fact that we made the playoffs after a bad stretch is a testament to the work we put in throughout the year and how good we have been at times,” midfielder Jordan Allen said. “Now, it's about rediscovering that form.”
Rediscovering the form that put RSL in the thick of the Supporters’ Shield race back in August seems like a tall task after the past six weeks. Finding the right combination to put on the field has been difficult for head coach Jeff Cassar. The presumed starting four attackers of Yura Movsisyan, Joao Plata, Juan Manuel Martinez and Javier Morales all played in Sunday's loss to Seattle, but they were never all on the field at the same time, with Olmes Garcia and Allen playing 90 minutes each up top.
Movsisyan, however, is a bit of a question mark for Wednesday's game because of a left heel injury that he only recently recovered from.
“It's alright. There's still pain,” Movsisyan said. “That's why we have as many players as we have, because players need to step up and play.”
Even if Movsisyan does play alongside the other three projected attackers [the four of them combined for 29 goals and 21 assists this season], there's no guarantee that chances will come often against a tough Galaxy defense. That's why Cassar is stressing being clinical in front of goal.
“We have to finish our opportunities,” Cassar said. “We're creating them. We have to continue to create more.
“This game is really going to be what happens in each box. Are we defensively sound? Are we eliminating as many opportunities as we can for LA, and then are we capitalizing on the ones we have? Whether it's 10 or two.”
On Sunday, RSL created 10 shots and managed to put just one home. That latter figure will likely be the bare minimum needed to find a positive result on Wednesday, though penalty kicks could end up deciding the match.
“Going to LA, it’s going to be really difficult to keep a clean sheet,” Allen said. “It's going to be about us finishing our chances when they come. An early goal or two will give us a little bit of momentum that could go a long way for us.”