RSL lineup shifts again
Real Salt Lake plays CD Universidad Catolica, the top team in Chile's First Division, in an international exhibition tonight at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and the home team has no idea what to expect.
But with three losses in as many games, some players prefer it that way.
"I don't really know too much about them to be honest," Jason Kreis said. "But that might be a good thing. It's time for us to focus on us."
Both players and coach John Ellinger welcome the matchup - the first international exhibition for the expansion team - as an opportunity to improve on Real's recent play. The team hasn't scored a goal in almost 5 1/2 hours of play - nearly four games.
"You go through these spells in a season. I've been through them before," Kreis said. "But it forces the coaches to start looking for changes. Unfortunately, we've forced him to make changes."
Ellinger and Real Salt Lake will do a number of things differently tonight. The team is missing players to national team duty, and it's looking to shake up the lineup to find the formula for scoring goals, so expect some personnel changes.
"Obviously we're frustrated," Ellinger said. "We've given up a lot of soft goals. On the plus side, we're creating chances. We just need to finish."
Kreis will likely start in the midfield. One of RSL's biggest problems - so they say - is the final pass. The last ball just isn't getting where it needs to be. Ellinger is hoping Kreis can remedy the problem by better distributing the ball to the forward line. The league veteran has spent the better part of the season as the team's lone forward.
"He'll make those passes," Ellinger said. "And I'm confident he can move up. He got more looks in 20-25 minutes of scrimmage [Thursday] than in the three games combined."
Clint Mathis will again start at the striker position. Mathis played up for the first time Saturday, when the team lost to Dallas 2-0.
Though Ellinger continues to shuffle his lineup, the coach, in his first year in the league, has a limited number of players at his disposal. He knows what type of player he'd like to add to the team, if it were possible.
"I'd like an engine," Ellinger said. "A guy like Landon Donovan, who is running the show, what he does for L.A. Or Robbie O'Brien, what he does for Dallas. . . . But Jason came into the league as a central midfielder, and he's willing to do that again for us."
Kreis is one of the longest-tenured players in Major League Soccer. Against Catolica, he'll pair up with one of the league's newest players, 16-year old Nikolas Besagno. Besagno, the league's No. 1 draft pick, earned his first start in the loss to Dallas.
With RSL still missing a number of players due to their respective national team duties, Besagno will get another start.
"Now, we're just kind of putting him out there on an island," Ellinger said.
Defender Eddie Pope is with the U.S. national team, which plays Panama today in Panama.
Marlon Rojas and Leslie Fitzpatrick will also be unavailable. Both are with the Trinidad and Tobago national team, which plays Mexico in World Cup qualifying today.
Defender Rusty Pierce is also unavailable - he strained a hamstring against Dallas - and will be out up to three weeks.
Everyone, except Pierce, is expected to return for Real's game against the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
RSL vs. CD Universidad Catolica
l At Rice-Eccles Stadium
l Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
l TV: None
l Radio: 1280 AM, 1600 AM (Spanish)
l Records: RSL (3-6-2), CD Catolica (14-2-3, Chilean First Division)
l Series: First meeting.
About RSL: The team will make a number of lineup changes tonight. . . . Jason Kreis will move back to the midfield, from his forward position, to help the team better distribute the ball. . . . Rookie Nikolas Besagno, 16, will make his second consecutive start for RSL. Eddie Pope is in Panama for a U.S. national team qualifier. Marlon Rojas and Leslie Fitzpatrick are on national team duty for their native Trinidad and Tobago. Rusty Pierce will be out roughly three weeks with a hamstring strain.
About CD Universidad Catolica: This is the second game in the U.S. for Catolica. . . . The team lost to the Columbus Crew 4-1 last weekend. The team won the Chilean First Division title, with a 14-2-3 overall record. Not all of Catolica's starting team will suit up this evening.
REAL SALT LAKE SOCCER