After coming up big Tuesday night, Real Salt Lake has every right to feel good about itself.
Will those positive feelings carry over to Friday as RSL resumes MLS play on the road against the Philadelphia Union? RSL has not won a league game since July 31.
Certainly, Real, which has never lost to the Union in four meetings, would seem to feel some relief after snapping a four-game losing streak with a dominating 2-0 victory against Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League.
“We never get too high or too low,” RSL midfielder Will Johnson. “It’s just who we are and what we’re about. We need to keep going with this string of results. We’ve got to get a little more consistent heading into the next stretch.”
Friday’s contest, scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. (MDT) kickoff at PPL Park, will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, a rare national TV spot in MLS play for RSL.
RSL (13-10-3) and the Union (7-12-3) have played to a pair of draws at PPL Park. This season, Philadelphia has played well at times in its own stadium, going 5-5-1, including a 4-0 pasting of Sporting Kansas City.
If RSL had its back against the wall in a must-win CCL situation, the Union are in a similar state in MLS play. With 26 points, Philly is 16 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Real sits five points behind San Jose in the Western Conference, but only two in front of third-place Seattle.
“This is a must-win game for us,” Philadelphia interim coach John Hackworth said on the team’s website. “I can’t stress enough the importance of pulling maximum points from this match. However, it’s certainly not going to be easy, with Real playing some really good soccer right now.”
While most of the attention Tuesday was focused on RSL’s relentless offensive attack, Real’s defense was key.
With center backs Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler injured and Nat Borchers suspended, RSL threw a shutout with a patched-up defensive back line.
Newcomers Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally continued their solid play. RSL coach Jason Kreis positioned Chris Wingert inside with Watson-Siriboe, while Mansally dropped into Wingert’s normal position.
Of RSL’s normal defensive lineup, only Tony Beltran was in his familiar outside right back slot.
“I think they all worked really hard,” Kreis said. “I think we were pretty sharp for the most part. … The guys stayed really composed, worked really hard, stayed really organized and kept the shutout, which we needed.”
The defensive effort allowed RSL keeper Nick Rimando to face only a few save opportunities.
“Defensively, we’re great, even without Olave or Nat in there and that definitely gives us confidence,” Rimando said. “So we can go into Philly and knock the ball, keep the ball, you can see that we have a lot more energy out there because we kept the ball and moved off the ball. If we can do that at the away game, I think the boys will be good.”
Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia Union
P At PPL Park (Chester, Pa.)
Kickoff • Friday, 5:30 p.m. (MDT)
TV • NBCSN
Radio • 700 AM
Records • RSL 13-10-3, PU 7-12-3
All-time series • RSL 2-0-2
Last meeting • RSL, 2-1 (Sept. 3, 2011)
About the Union • On Aug. 16, Philadelphia traded Lionard Pajoy and his team-leading five goals to DC United for midfielder Danny Cruz. … Gabriel Gomez also has five goals for the Union.
About RSL • Real will play its third game in seven days. … Alvaro Saborio scored his team-leading 14th goal against Tauro FC. … Centerbacks Jamison Olave (hamstring) and Chris Schuler (foot) continue to work their way back from injury.