Sandy • If Real Salt Lake thought it was going to escape discussing another marquee, much-talked-about regular-season matchup, the answer is this: Think again.
Sure, RSL pounded visiting Toronto FC 3-0 on Saturday night in the wake of discussing its multimillion-dollar turnaround this offseason, hyped by big signings. The win was RSL’s second of 2014 — the club is now 2-0-2 in its first four matches — but expounding on the addition of players is one thing.
Returning to the site of the heartbreak is another.
That’s precisely what is up next for RSL: a return to “The Blue Hell.”
Nearly four months after losing the 2013 MLS Cup final in a marathon penalty-kick shootout at Sporting Park, RSL renews its rivalry with defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1) on Saturday.
And apparently, there will be no shortage of bulletin-board fodder. Minutes after delivering the game-winner against the Colorado Rapids in stoppage time of its 3-2 win, Sporting Kansas City’s Dominic Dwyer voiced his opinion on the MLS Cup rematch on a postgame radio show, expressing his hate for RSL.
Suffice to say, Saturday evening will be interesting.
“I can’t wait,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers. “I can’t wait to play these guys. I’ve been thinking about them all offseason. They’re a great team and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’ll go on the road, and hopefully, the weather is better this time.”
It is doubtful the forecast will call for 15-degree temperatures at Sporting Park, and it’s unlikely much of the field will be covered in ice like the MLS Cup final, but the matchup has interesting undertones. Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Luis Gil and new call-up Tony Beltran could see time with Graham Zusi and Matt Besler in Wednesday’s U.S. international friendly against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz.
Three days later, things will be different.
Ned Grabavoy said the team isn’t interested in making matches bigger than they seem. After dousing new MLS darlings TFC in the runaway win Saturday at Rio Tinto, Grabavoy said steady improvement is the key, not being caught up in the hype.
“I think that we are a team that’s just going to try to get better each week,” said the RSL midfielder. “We feel comfortable playing with each other. I don’t think we are going to be too high after a win or too low after a loss — we stay pretty even-keel. We know it’s a long season and this is just the beginning.”
It’s the beginning of another week for RSL — now Week 5 in the 2014 season — but its unforgiving schedule to start continues against a familiar foe in an environment it’s very familiar with.
“I think the points and all that stuff will come,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. “I’m just really pleased with the spirit of the guys right now.”
Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC
P Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4
Red Bulls 1,Chivas USA 1
Harrison, N.J. • Peguy Luyindula headed a corner kick into the net as four minutes of stoppage time was about to expire and the New York Red Bulls salvaged a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA on Sunday, preventing Chivas from snapping a 16-game winless streak on the road.
Erick Torres scored on a first-half penalty kick for Chivas USA.