June was perfect.
Seventeen goals scored, only three allowed. Six games, six Real Salt Lake victories.
Now come the dog days of summer.
As the calendar turns to July, RSL finds itself atop the MLS standings. But the new month means a host of new challenges in the quest for a Supporters’ Shield.
Salt Lake’s four July matches are against teams currently in playoff position, the first coming Wednesday when the Philadelphia Union visit Rio Tinto Stadium.
Philadelphia conceded a late goal Saturday to draw with FC Dallas. The Union will be without one of the league’s top scorers, forward Jack McInerney, who has been called up to the U.S. Gold Cup roster.
But RSL knows a little something about that, too. One of Salt Lake’s top scorers, Alvaro Saborio, has left for Costa Rica and his national team. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando — whose late heroics preserved Saturday’s win in Toronto — captain Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran will also miss a month’s worth of games with the U.S.
“A lot of questions are answered in matches,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said after Saturday’s victory, the team’s first ever in Canada. “Our belief in our depth continues to grow.”
July should provide a great test to that belief. But it’s a test the team’s front office saw coming. Rimando’s inclusion in Gold Cup was one of the reasons Salt Lake signed goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who helped the L.A. Galaxy to the last two MLS Cups.
Kreis was able to rest starters while getting solid performances Saturday out of reserve defenders Lovel Palmer and Aaron Maund.
“Aaron in particular, it was only his second start for us. He played in one Open Cup game. He really showed some nerves in his first performance. For him to come back tonight the way he did was outstanding,” Kreis said of the young center back.
Real Salt Lake, however, will get some reinforcement. Midfielder Luis Gil will return to the team after his U.S. U20 squad was knocked out of the World Cup in Turkey.
Philadelphia at Salt Lake
P Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV • CW30