Jason Kreis paused for a moment when asked the question.
The Real Salt Lake coach had just watched as D.C. United, Major League Soccer’s last-place team, raised the U.S. Open Cup toward the backs of the exiting fans, the lights at Rio Tinto Stadium shimmering on the silver Kreis so desperately coveted.
FC Dallas at Real Salt LakeSaturday, 7 p.m.
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The loss was particularly hard when viewed in historical context. This was the third time since 2008 RSL had squandered a chance to win a trophy in front of its home fans. The difference this time: Salt Lake immediately faces a stretch of important games.
So Kreis contemplated the question. How would his team respond?
"We’ll see," he said finally. "We’ll see. I think there’s some points where coaches have a lot of answers and there’s some points where coaches look to the players for answers. This will be a moment I look to the players for answers."
The mood in the locker room after the loss was sullen.
Defender Tony Beltran spoke softer than usual. Carlos Salcedo called it the worst loss of his career.
The team had been so close to winning a title, so close to punching a ticket back to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Ned Grabavoy’s eyes welled with regret.
"Obviously people won’t sleep well tonight, that’s just how it goes," the veteran midfielder said. "I think it’s one of those things where you look back a little bit, but we’ve got another game this weekend. Sometimes it’s good to have a game this quickly, to focus on another opponent and focus on another match, to get the bad taste out of the mouth and to move on. Everyone is going to say it, but we need to do that. As tough as it is, we need to do that. Right now, maybe this makes us stronger somehow – that’s really the only positive we can take from it."
Unlike the 2008 conference final loss to New York that ended RSL’s season, and the 2011 Champions League defeat that came with months still to go in the regular season, Salt Lake has just three games left to secure position before the playoffs begin.
With a game Saturday at home against FC Dallas, Nat Borchers said he did not want to dwell on the Open Cup defeat.
"This isn’t the last game of the season," he told reporters as he stood in front of his locker. "Like I said, we got a choice to make in this locker room right now. To either let this loss affect us for the rest of the season, or step up and react to it. I think there’s going to be plenty of motivation not to take away from a game like this."
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