Soccer: Real Salt Lake on upswing of roller-coaster season
No doubt, 2011 has been an amusement park ride for Real Salt Lake.
RSL started the Major League Soccer season with four wins in a row and had other successes in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Then Salt Lake lost four of five.
Now, with a 2-1 victory at Seattle, Real is riding another three-game winning streak in MLS play with a home game Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.
"It is true, going through this season this team started to get rattled," RSL coach Jason Kreis said following Saturday's victory against the Sounders. "But lately they have stayed very resilient, disciplined and together. I'm proud and happy we had learned through all of this and hopefully we are a better team."
RSL's first-ever win in Seattle the team also scored its first goal in that city was not without its oddities, including two red cards and an own goal.
In the past three weeks, RSL has picked up nine points and moved to within a point of third-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings for the third and final automatic playoff spot. If the MLS playoffs began today, RSL would host a wild-card game.
Defender Tony Beltran, the fifth RSL player to be shown a red card this season, had never been ejected in 77 previous MLS games before it happened at Seattle. The Sounders had little time to capitalize on their advantage, as Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was booted from the game just four minutes later.
"It feels really, really good and I told our guys I'm really proud of all the hard work they put in," Kreis said. "The fact that they stuck together and kept working hard and stayed discipline through some pretty interesting decisions in the first half. There were some pretty dire circumstances, and I was proud of our guys for getting another hard-fought win."
Kreis insisted that even as RSL was in the midst of its slump, including a 2-0 loss at Kansas City on Aug. 3, the team had been improving. There were a few bounces and defensive lapses at key times.
During the recent good run, Real has begun to reap the benefits of a couple breaks. Notably, in Seattle the Sounders missed a penalty kick. Then, Seattle's usually brick-solid goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, misplayed a Fabian Espindola cross into an own goal.
Also, what would have been a game-tying score for Seattle caught RSL keeper Nick Rimando flush on the face.
"Oh, never, those are the one's you don't expect or train for," Rimando said. "When they happen you don't want them to go in the back of the net. I saw the guys playing so I guess I saved it with my face.
"We wanted to come in here and prove a point that we are a good team even though we lost of couple of games. We gave it everything we had, and we won."
Sporting K.C. at Real Salt Lake
P Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • KMYU 2.2