Sandy • With the sting of Tuesday’s Open Cup defeat still fresh, Real Salt Lake called a players-only meeting Friday before stepping out onto the training field.
The gathering was brief, players said, and the talk was positive.
FC Dallas at Real Salt LakeAt Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy)
Kickoff » Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV » CW30
Records » RSL 15-10-6 (51 points); Dallas 10-10-10 (40 points)
About RSL » The team has lost three of its last four games, including a 1-0 defeat by D.C. United in Tuesday’s Open Cup championship game. … A win Saturday would clinch a playoff spot. … Leading scorer Alvaro Saborio (calf strain) played Tuesday for the first time in more than a month.
About Dallas » After a hot start to the year, Dallas’ fall from grace has been steep. The team now sits in eighth place, five points back of playoff position in the West. … Making its first trip to Rio Tinto this year after going 1-1-0 in two games against RSL in Texas.
"We got through some stuff," veteran defender Nat Borchers said. "Everybody’s on the same page now. We know what we have to do."
For RSL coach Jason Kreis — who knew nothing of the meeting until he was asked about it by reporters — it’s an encouraging sign. Earlier this week, immediately after the 1-0 loss to D.C. United, the coach said it would be up to his players to respond.
"It’s one thing for me to deliver messages and try to lead the way I know how, from the heart," Kreis said Friday. "Sometimes it’s important for them to talk with each other and sort it out inside the locker room."
What RSL is trying to sort out is this: Why, after spending most of the summer in first place, has this team lost three of its last four games across all competition — the lone win coming last weekend, thanks to a squad heavy on reserves?
With just three games left in the regular season, RSL must sort it out quickly.
A win Saturday against FC Dallas would certainly go a long way toward that. A victory would give RSL 54 points, clinching a playoff spot for the sixth year in a row.
"We don’t have to wait another whole week or something" for a shot at redemption, midfielder Ned Grabavoy said.
Recent results, meanwhile, could impact the lineup Kreis uses against Blas Perez and a Dallas team trying to claw its way back into the playoff picture.
RSL’s "B team" victory in Vancouver last weekend, combined with the recent letdowns from his veterans, have left Kreis with "difficult decisions" to make ahead of Saturday’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"It’s relying on what you know and you feel versus giving opportunities to players that frankly deserve it," he said. "It’s also the end of the season, and we have to take that into consideration. We’re very close to the playoffs, and we know we’re going to need strong performances from our best players."
Despite its record over the last month, RSL can take some comfort in its performances. Outside of a dismal showing in Seattle, Salt Lake has played well in home losses to San Jose and D.C. United. The Earthquakes capitalized on two defensive letdowns in a three-minute window to sneak out with a 2-1 victory. D.C. United, meanwhile, buried its only shot on goal and then bunkered in to claim a 1-0 win in the Open Cup championship
"We’re a positive group," Borchers said. "We’re looking to move forward. We are learning from our mistakes and I think that everybody understands what we need to do to get better."
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