Sandy • On the bright side, hapless Toronto FC is visiting this weekend.
But first, Real Salt Lake must deal with another foreboding trip to Texas — the state in which it has never won — for a game against FC Dallas at hot-and-humid FC Dallas Stadium on Wednesday night without two of its most important players and on the heels of back-to-back road losses.
Real Salt Lake at FC DallasAt FC Dallas Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Kickoff » Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. MDT
TV » CW30
Radio » 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
Records » RSL 5-3-0, FC Dallas 3-3-1
Regular-season series » FC Dallas leads, 11-7-2
Last meeting » RSL 2, FC Dallas 0 (July 9, 2011)
About RSL » Having lost back-to-back road games, team is hoping to win for the first time ever in Texas. … Forward Paulo Jr. and defender Chris Schuler are expected to start in place of suspended forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jamison Olave.
About FC Dallas » Coming off a 1-0 loss at Vancouver that kept it pointless on the road. … Forward Blas Perez leads the team with three goals and three assists, but is suspended for the game. … Former MLS Most Valuable Player David Ferreira is out recovering from foot surgery, after a devastating tackle broke his ankle one year ago and forced the midfielder to miss the rest of last season.
"For us, it’s going to be about just battling," defender Nat Borchers said.
Even that might not be enough.
RSL is 0-8-1 all-time at FC Dallas, and winless in 18 trips to Texas, counting the Major League Soccer playoffs and the Houston Dynamo.
What’s more, forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jamison Olave both are suspended for the game, having been ejected with straight red cards during RSL’s 3-1 loss at San Jose on Saturday. The Hoops will be shorthanded, too, though, with leading scorer Blas Perez suspended for the game by the league for elbowing Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey last weekend.
The loss was the second straight after a 5-1-0 start for RSL, a budding skid that can’t be allowed to continue, however much coaches and players are trying to focus on performance instead of results this season.
"At the end of the day now, we’ve lost two games in a row," coach Jason Kreis said. "I still don’t take too well to that."
Strangely, a loss or tie would put RSL in exactly the same situation as last year, riding a three-game winless streak after winning five of the first six. The team rebounded last season with a victory over lowly Vancouver — a role fit to be played by Toronto on Saturday — but then proceeded to go another four games without a victory.
By then, it had faded to fourth place in the MLS Western Conference, and never made up enough ground the rest of the way.
"No one’s panicking yet," midfielder Will Johnson said. "We’ve been here before."
Of course, one big difference is that RSL was adjusting last year to life without injured midfielder Javier Morales.
Now, Morales is just getting back in the flow, having started in San Jose for just the second time this season because of a hamstring injury. Morales said he felt good, even while working hard to cover extra ground while two men down, and is eager to return to his regular role leading the attack.
"I don’t want to wait, anymore, to play," he said.
Still, it won’t be a surprise if Morales does not start against FC Dallas, since Kreis doesn’t want to push him too hard, too soon. If that winds up being the case, Morales probably would then start against Toronto at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Kreis said his team faces a "huge, huge mental test" going to FC Dallas, and passing that test has to mean taking at least a point from the Hoops with a draw.
"Right now, a result" is what RSL needs, Kreis said. "A result, always on the road. … That’s the starting point."
In other words, the team would be happy to escape with another scoreless draw like the one it played last season to claim its first road point ever in Texas.
"On the road, you have to look for results," Borchers said. "A scoreless draw would be very favorable to us. It would be good for our confidence, defensively. At the same time, we’re always looking for three points. If we have the chance to put them away … we’re going to go for the jugular, so to speak."
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