With three weeks between MLS matches during the World Cup break, Real Salt Lake’s players and coaches will have some time now to kick their feet up, read War and Peace, and ponder the meaning of life. Right?
» Saturday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. in Atlanta
"I wish it was a break, I really do," said head coach Jeff Cassar after Saturday night’s 3-1 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium, a bitter end to an 0-2-1 week for his previously unbeaten team.
But Saturday brings another opponent, the Atlanta Silverbacks, and an opportunity for an RSL return to the win column.
"We always want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible," Cassar said. "We’re traveling to Atlanta, and playing there on turf and in the heat is not going to be easy. We’ll have to play a very good game to beat them there."
The Open Cup’s greatest value may be that it offers RSL a ticket back to the CONCACAF Champions League. Five wins, and they’d be in. Last year RSL came up one short, losing at home in the Oct. 1 Open Cup final to D.C. United.
If RSL wins Saturday, that would yield a June 24 showdown against the winner of Orlando City at Colorado Rapids.
"It’s not an easy road when you’re starting in Atlanta and going across the country," defender Nat Borchers said. "We’re going to go out and give it everything we’ve got."
The Silverbacks (3-1-5 in the North American Soccer League) are coached by "technical director" Eric Wynalda.
It will be telling who Cassar — who played a short stint for Atlanta in 2002 — trots out for the match that starts at 6 p.m. MDT at Silverbacks Park.
Forward Joao Plata seemed to be near 100 percent in his return from a hamstring injury Saturday, playing 58 minutes before being relieved.
Midfielder Ned Grabavoy was another story, going down to a knee in the 62nd minute and requiring a trainer’s attention before hobbling off the field. Cassar said after the match that it’s either a hip flexor or glute injury.
"It was typical Ned, who wants to push through everything, but he just couldn’t do it anymore," Cassar said. "It was his third game in seven days. He’s a warrior, so I really appreciate his effort."
And striker Robbie Findley continues to be hampered by knee soreness. Findley missed six months after offseason surgery. The team says there is no cause for concern, but he has missed three matches since he played 25 minutes vs. Dallas.
Grabavoy echoed Cassar that RSL is in decent shape, all things considered, second place in the MLS standings.
"There’s obviously things we need to work on, but injuries are piling up a little bit [and] we will get our national team guys back at some point as well," he said. "So it’s not all dark clouds."
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