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Real Salt Lake not entertaining talk of unbeaten streak

Published May 22, 2014 3:01 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Real Salt Lake doesn't care about numbers. Just ask Javier Morales. He said didn't he know RSL was close to anything streak-wise — unless his poker face is that of sheer steel.

"We don't care about numbers," said RSL's 34-year-old midfielder earlier this week.

So when broaching the possibility that RSL could tie an 18-year-old record in Major League Soccer, don't expect to hear much. Those who cover the team haven't exactly stumbled upon vast, in-depth summaries on what a result against FC Dallas Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium would mean to the club. It's been that way for the last few weeks. Unbeaten through its first 11 matches, RSL (6-0-5) sits a 90-minute win or draw away from tying the L.A. Galaxy's 12-game unbeaten start to a year.

That accomplishment first came back in 1996 as L.A. went 12-0-0. Recent RSL Academy signee Justen Glad wasn't born yet. Joao Plata was a four-year-old. Luis Gil was still an infant. The Galaxy went 10-0-2 to start its 2010 season and the old Kansas City Wizards did the same in 2000.

But like Morales — along with nearly every player and coach I've talked to — apparently the best offense is scoring goals and not talking about anything resembling a streak. No one has mentioned the word jinx, but maybe that's the roundabout approach.

"I don't mind talking about it a little bit, we just don't really talk about it in the locker room," said defender Chris Wingert. "I don't think we're avoiding it, honestly, I don't think it really matters."

Wingert said there are times when a streak can matter. He was a rookie with the Columbus Crew in 2004 when the Crew broke the league record for consecutive-unbeaten matches with 19. But that Columbus side strolled into the postseason and was bounced right away after winning the Supporters' Shield.

"We're just so early in the season," Wingert said. "I don't even think it matters — and we're not even in first place."

Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella said tying the record would "be cool," but said RSL is focused on itself, not searching for a record this Saturday night against struggling FC Dallas.

"It's really not even talked about at all," Attinella said. "I can't even stress that enough."

Tony Beltran's response to the question everyone's been asking the last few weeks was: "You don't think much about it, to be honest. When we had the home-unbeaten record, that was really cool, but it's something we take pride in, of course, because we want to hold records, we want to be an elite team and those kinds of things set you apart, but again, it's not something you're paranoid about or worried about or thinking because you have to focus on the game.

"Eventually all things have to come to an end, but if we just focus on the good soccer — hopefully the results keep coming — then that's great. If the streak keeps going, or if it doesn't keep going. As long as we continue to put points on the board and being at the top of the table, that's enough."

First-year coach Jeff Cassar said the form of his club isn't about a record or attaining personal goals, rather it's about snagging another three points.

"I have some friends outside the game who are fans of the team and they talk a little bit about it, but it's honestly nothing that we're discussing at all," he said. "It's going to be nice if we get it, but it really doesn't do anything for us making the playoffs or reaching the MLS Cup."

It's a story angle that has been exhausted and will continue to be should RSL tie the record with a result against FC Dallas Saturday and go for its own spot in the record books at league-leading Seattle on May 31. A result against Dallas would up RSL's regular-season unbeaten streak — combined with finishing the last four regular-season games of 2013 unbeaten — to 16 straight, three shy of that Columbus side and FC Dallas in 2010.

Which could set in motion an entirely different mixed bag of inquiries regarding records and streaks and being scripted into the annals of history in the weeks ahead.

Cassar may be tired of answering the same question, but he's still up for it. For now.

"That's a positive," he said, laughing. "Let's do it."

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani