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MLS: Attack-minded RSL can live with allowing goals

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Sporting Kansas City's Peterson Joseph, left, defends against Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales, right, in the first half of an MLS soccer game on Saturday, July 20, 2013, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Aug 29 2013 02:14PM
Updated Aug 30, 2013 07:02PM

Sandy • There will be goals. Expect that much at least.

Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have played twice this year, combining for nine goals. That RSL has conceded four of them is a tradeoff coach Jason Kreis says he can live with.

"I would rather tie 3-3 than tie 0-0," he said Thursday as his team prepared for a third meeting with the Timbers on Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. "We have an aggressive mentality. We always have. Why not practice what we preach?"

After going scoreless over its final five matches of last year, RSL made a decision to stockpile firepower this season. The team’s depth — particularly among its five forwards, a collection Kreis says he has more trust in than any he’s ever coached — has certainly been important.

But it’s the play of RSL’s midfielders that has allowed Salt Lake to fly past the franchise record of 46 goals set a season ago. The team has 48 on the year with seven games still to play.

Kreis has demanded more from his midfielders this season as he’s called for more players to push forward and get involved in the attack. The results have been undeniable: seven midfielders have found the back of the net, and four of them have done it at least four times, led by Javier Morales’ six.

But it has meant some concessions for RSL. The team relies on the midfielders playing the side of the diamond particularly to cover a lot of ground and handle heavy defensive loads.

The tradeoff has meant scoring chances for Salt Lake’s opponents. Of the Western Conference teams currently in playoff position, only the Galaxy has allowed more goals per game (1.28) than RSL (1.22).

RSL’s plus-15 goal differential, meanwhile, is the best in the league.

Kreis has been an advocate of the spectacle, and of free-flowing matches. He’s been complimentary of the Timbers and new coach Caleb Porter for that very reason. Even on the road, Portland won’t put eight or nine men behind the ball and bunker in.

That means there will be chances for goals.

That suits Kreis just fine.

"Soccer is like sleeping with a blanket that’s too small," he said. "You can cover your head or your feet. Sometimes you have to make a choice."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk

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