Real Salt Lake: Slumping RSL seeks turnaround against Revolution
Carson, Calif. • Nat Borchers draped a towel around his neck, his jersey soaked from being part of a side that battled for 81 minutes down to 10 men on the road. The veteran Real Salt Lake center back waited for his interview with the local TV affiliate to begin underneath StubHub Center, and when it did, he didn't maneuver around the magnitude of this next match.
Winless in its last five league outings, RSL needs three points. It'll have yet another opportunity on Friday in its traditional Fourth of July match as the upstart New England Revolution march into Rio Tinto Stadium.
"It's going to be the biggest game of the year," Borchers said.
In a marathon eight-month-long regular season, it's hard to place so much onus on one 90-minute outing, even after a string of difficult outings, the kind RSL has endured since late May when three of the club's best players left for World Cup duties and injuries continued.
But it's clear this group needs a win. After its 6-0-6 start to 2014, RSL (6-3-7) has gone 0-3-1, including being bounced from its first go at the U.S. Open Cup tournament against NASL side Atlanta Silverbacks on June 14. Players, coaches and the front office knew that this stretch without captain Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio wouldn't be peaches. The schedule stiffened and injuries continued to mount. Suddenly, RSL's last win was six weeks ago.
"Every game is a big game for us," said midfielder Javier Morales. "Now, New England's coming home and it's going to be special for us because we need a win. We need a win right now."
A straight red card to midfielder Luke Mulholland in the ninth minute of Saturday's 1-0 loss at lowly Chivas USA hampered the aspirations of a positive start to the second half of the Major League Soccer season. It was the club's second red card in as many games following the dismissal of defender Tony Beltran in RSL's 3-1 home loss against Portland on June 7.
"It's like goals change games, red cards change games," Borchers said. "It's just about how your react and the adjustments you make. We just took it as a really big challenge on ourselves to try and really man up and play better and thought, really, on the whole we did that."
For the first 12 weeks of the season, RSL hadn't experienced losing three points to the opposition. But just as positive of a start that was for the club, the reality of losing is serving as a harsh reminder of the parody of MLS and that without three stars and thinned with injuries is at the forefront.
So how do the players and coaches turn things around?
"We're really going to have to be more disciplined on the whole, bring a lot of energy in this game against New England," Borchers said. "It's going to be a big night for us. The difference is who's going to want it more?"
Odds probably rest with RSL. With four of its next five matches at home, the time to start obtaining points has arrived. The reinvention of RSL's recent play starts Friday night against the visiting 7-6-2 Revolution.
"We need three points, without a doubt," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "I would say every game now is extremely important."
W L T Pts GF GA
Sporting K.C. 7 5 4 25 22 14
D.C. 7 5 4 25 22 17
New England 7 6 2 23 22 21
Toronto FC 6 4 2 20 17 15
New York 4 5 7 19 24 24
Columbus 4 5 7 19 18 18
Philadelphia 4 7 6 18 25 28
Houston 5 10 2 17 16 32
Montreal 3 7 5 14 16 26
Chicago 2 4 8 14 22 25
W L T Pts GF GA
Seattle 11 3 2 35 33 23
Colorado 7 5 4 25 23 18
Real Salt Lake 6 3 7 25 25 22
FC Dallas 6 7 5 23 28 28
Vancouver 5 3 7 22 25 22
Los Angeles 5 3 5 20 17 11
Portland 4 5 8 20 28 28
San Jose 4 6 4 16 15 15
Chivas USA 3 7 5 14 15 26
Columbus 0, FC Dallas 0, tie
Montreal 3, Houston 0
Wednesday, July 2
Toronto FC at Chicago, 6:30 p.m.
Chivas USA at San Jose, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, July 4
New York at Houston, 6:30 p.m.
Philadelphia at FC Dallas, 7 p.m.
Columbus at Colorado, 7:30 p.m.
New England at Real Salt Lake, 8 p.m.
Portland at Los Angeles, 9 p.m.
Saturday, July 5
D.C. United at Toronto FC, 5 p.m.
Seattle FC at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
Montreal at Chivas USA, 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 6
Chicago at Sporting Kansas City, 1 p.m.