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MLS: RSL finding fortunes can change fast
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of the beautiful things about soccer is the way everything can change in the flash of a single moment, like the second that Real Salt Lake's Jason Kreis lofted home a game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy over the weekend.

That one soft touch could turn around an entire season.

Whereas RSL entered the game seemingly on the verge of a season-killing nose-dive, with key players hurt and the lineup in disarray, it now suddenly finds itself - just like that - in a promising position to play its way back toward the top of the Major League Soccer standings.

Squarely in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference, the team plays three of its next four games at home, starting with a rematch against fellow expansion club Chivas USA on Wednesday. And the road game comes this weekend against a Columbus Crew team that joined Chivas as the worst defensive group in the league by losing 4-0 at home to the Kansas City Wizards and extending its losing streak to four games.

"We've got two more games this week, and it would be great to get six points," RSL's Brian Kamler said. "We'd be right in the thick of it."

Avenging a controversial 1-0 loss at Chivas last week and earning its first road win of the season against the Crew would vault RSL into the fight for the top spot in the conference.

But it won't be easy.

Leading scorer Kreis must sit out the Chivas game serving a suspension for picking up three yellow cards in three games, and midfielders Tiger Fitzpatrick and Marlon Rojas will miss the game while training with their Trinidad and Tobago national team.

On the other hand, RSL could have starting goalkeeper D.J. Countess back in the lineup, if his separated left shoulder has healed enough. And the team seems to be gaining confidence, especially after coming from behind to stun the Galaxy and superstar Landon Donovan.

"The first half was a little shaky at times," RSL's Clint Mathis said. "But we came out in the second half wanting to win the game, and that has been the difference from the rest of the games this season. We really wanted to win this, to come back from a goal down against probably one of the top two or three teams in this league. It was a good win for us."

Coach John Ellinger called it a "huge confidence-builder," though he declined to worry just yet about how he will accommodate for the absences of Kreis, Fitzpatrick and Rojas from the Chivas game.

"We'll let Chivas worry about us for awhile," he said.

RSL felt it was cheated by the officiating in its 1-0 loss at Chivas on May 7, first when the referee called an intentional hand-ball inside the box on Rojas - Chivas' Hector Cuadros converted the game-winning penalty kick - and then when he refused to award RSL a penalty kick on a tackle from behind.

That was an infraction Ellinger understood to be an automatic foul, according to what league officials had told coaches in a preseason meeting, and he later complained to officials at the league office.

The response?

"We misunderstood," Ellinger said he was told. "Thirty-five of us. We all misunderstood."

Ellinger said the league told him that a tackle from behind is not automatically a foul unless the referee judges it to be dangerous. That's the rule that U.S. Soccer applies, Ellinger said, but not what he and other coaches had been told before the season.

In any case, RSL will be facing a Chivas team that lost 2-1 at Colorado over the weekend, allowing the game-winning goal in the 78th minute while playing with a man advantage. Chivas has not won on the road this season, and its only win at all was the victory over RSL.

"We feel we can beat anybody at any time," RSL's Eddie Pope said.

mcl@sltrib.com

Up Next

Chivas at RSL

Wednesday

7:30 p.m.

Gaining momentum: After beating the Galaxy, Real's confidence is skyrocketing
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