Carson, Calif. • Following a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis kept his locker room closed longer than usual.
His team was outplayed handily in the defeat, and with just nine games remaining in the season — including a midweek match in Portland looming — the RSL boss wants more than his players were willing to give on a dismal summer night in Southern California.
“We need to put in the work and be ready for a very difficult opponent and a very difficult building and just give our best,” Kreis told reporters after the loss. “Because, frankly, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t really feel like everyone gave their best tonight. I think there was more to give on a lot of people’s parts.”
RSL will visit the Timbers, who sit in third place in the Western Conference, on Wednesday evening.
After holding L.A. at bay in the first half, RSL took a 1-0 lead only to watch a Robbie Keane hat trick erase any chance of securing crucial road points evaporate.
It was a night to forget from RSL’s perspective, and the team’s leaders say they will do just that as they refocus for the stretch run.
“You gotta get it off your shoulders and move on with it,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “The worst thing to do is let it dwell on you and let it take over the things we’ve done so well this season. There’s a reason we’re at the top of the table.”
RSL’s 41 points are still best in Major League Soccer, though the wiggle room at the top has diminished greatly with the team going 1-3-1 in its last five league games.
For a team that has relished the underdog role in recent years, playing with a lead hasn’t added extra pressure, said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
“It’s cool to be at the top, but we’re not too concerned with it,” he said. “I think there will be pressure on it with three games left, something like that. But with 10 games left, it’s too much soccer to be played. I think first and seventh, there are seven points different. Everybody is in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.”
With wins Saturday, the New York Red Bulls, the Portland Timbers and the Colorado Rapids all moved within striking distance of first place in the league. A win over San Jose on Sunday night would have allowed Sporting Kansas City to overtake RSL, but the Earthquakes won, 1-0.
“There’s a lot of parity in this league,” Rimando said. “I think we all know that. Good teams are going to win. Bad teams are going to win. It’s going to even out and it’s going to be a race at the end like it always is.”
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
P Wednesday, 9 p.m.
TV • CW30