Unbeaten, yet not exactly satisfied.
Having maneuvered through the formidable start to the 2014 schedule, Real Salt Lake returns home on the heels of its 2-2 draw at Philadelphia Saturday as the lone undefeated team in Major League Soccer, with a 2-0-4 record. It’s not the best start in franchise history as RSL started 5-1-0 in 2011 and 2012, but the club had never gone unbeaten through the first six weeks of an MLS season.
“I think we are going to get better and that is what really is exciting,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. “We are not playing our best soccer right now, but we’re still getting results and that is up to me to get the guys going.”
The task of facing four of its first six matches on the road — at L.A., San Jose, Kansas City and Philadelphia — has turned into a conglomerate of varying results across the country. A dramatic win, followed by disappointing and hard-earned draws, echo RSL’s difficult slate early on, and Saturday’s draw at PPL Park against the Union was no different.
Despite holding the lead twice at Philadelphia, RSL couldn’t bring three points with it on the flight home as Maurice Edu’s 90th-minute goal equalized four minutes after captain Kyle Beckerman gave Salt Lake a 2-1 lead late.
Much like the wild 3-3 draw at San Jose on March 15, three road points eluded RSL against the Union.
“I think we are unbeaten, so we are picking up points along the way,” said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. “Still, I feel like this group expects a lot. Our expectations are very high, from our coaching staff on down to our players. We think that we can go most places, play soccer and win games.”
RSL has proved it, yet despite leading in the waning minutes in three out of its fourth road matches, the 1-0 win at L.A. to open the season remains the only away outing RSL has capitalized on protecting.
“We are six games into the season and we have only played a couple of games at home and it’s a proud feeling we are still undefeated,” said RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland, who scored the first goal against the Union. “Obviously, at the same time looking at it, taking the lead twice, it would have been nice to get all of those three points.”
Coincidentally, four of the club’s next six matches — all of which feature Western Conference teams — come at Rio Tinto Stadium, starting with Saturday night’s 2013 Western Conference final rematch with the Portland Timbers. The schedule will tip in RSL’s favor as it returns home for a slew of important conference matches before the departures of expected World Cup participants Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando and Beckerman in mid-May.
More importantly, RSL survived a bevy of early-season injuries as at least 14 players have missed at least one game due to injury in 2014. Now the club returns to Sandy following another road result with a motivated Timbers (0-2-4) team that is yet to win a game rolling into Rio Tinto this weekend.
“I think there was three points to get, but I am happy with one, happy to stay undefeated and excited about coming home,” Cassar said.
Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
P Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • CW30