A much-anticipated season opener turned into a wind-blown tie, then a 3-1 loss to Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second game caused a downward turn. The highest point came last week in the home opener, when RSL drew in 25,287 fans and beat Colorado 1-0.
That emotional ride continues one more week for veteran forward Jason Kreis when RSL plays FC Dallas today at the Cotton Bowl. Kreis played for Dallas since the league's inception in 1996, nine years ago, and became the league's all-time leading goal-scorer with 92 tallies.
Playing as a visitor will bring out mixed emotions.
"Being back in my old stomping grounds, and for the first time not in a Dallas Burn uniform, it should be emotional and I'm looking forward to it," Kreis said.
Kreis became connected with the Dallas community during his years there. He and his wife, Kim, raised two boys there, and he got familiar with the area.
"The ultimate connections are with the teammates I've had for such a long time," Kreis said. That familiarity could lead to a bit of ribbing during the game.
"I wouldn't me surprised if I got razzed quite a bit," Kreis said. "That's all in good fun, and I've got no problem with that."
Kreis left his nine-year home for a fresh start in Utah with an expansion team. It was probably the right move for him. At 32 years old, Dallas management might have felt he was past his prime.
Dallas also had a rising star in Eddie Johnson, the most productive goal-scorer the U.S. national team has ever seen. Kreis, however, intends to show he still is dangerous.
"I want to play well, I want to show that I've still got it and that I can hurt them," Kreis said. But that is not his main goal today. Rather, he will be focusing on his own team.
"I'm more concerned with putting emphasis on how the team is developing," Kreis said.
In the league's inaugural year, when FC Dallas was known as the Dallas Burn, Kreis scored the team's first goal. Two weeks ago, Kreis did the same thing for RSL against the Galaxy.
Kreis is not the only RSL player with a history in Dallas. Defender Brian Dunseth and goalkeeper D.J. Countess both played in Dallas, as did reserve-team player Matt Behncke. Rookie Jamie Watson grew up in Dallas.
"There are several players that have a bone to pick with Dallas, and that's a good thing," coach John Ellinger said.
RSL's defense will need to play well against Johnson and Dallas' other scoring machine, Carlos Ruiz. "We've got our hands full, no question," Ellinger said. Johnson and Ruiz, he said, can threaten RSL in two very different ways.
"Eddie is fast and strong; he's faster than [Donovan]," Ellinger said. Ruiz, on the other had, picks his moments.
"You have to watch that bugger the whole game," Ellinger said. "He can be invisible for 90 minutes, and then he's right there."
In addition to Johnson and Ruiz, Dallas has strong midfielders in Richard Mulrooney and Ronnie O'Brien. Unbeaten thus far, Dallas plays a 3-4-3 formation, and Ellinger said the key to beating the Burn is to get through the midfield.
"The key is to get past that middle four and cause some problems for them in the back," Ellinger said.
The game will be broadcast on KSL on tape delay at 11 p.m.
Real Salt Lake at F.C. Dallas
RSL SOCCER TONIGHT'S GAME
* At the Cotton Bowl, Dallas
* Kickoff: 6 p.m. MDT
* TV: Ch. 5 (11 p.m. tape delay)
* Radio: 1280 AM (English); 1600 AM (Spanish)
* Records: RSL 1-1-1; Dallas 2-0-1
* Series: First meeting
About RSL: Today's game is the first back in Dallas for F Jason Kreis, D Brian Dunseth and GK D.J. Countess. . . . Overall, they have been outscored 3-2. Kreis and Dunseth each have one goal, and Clint Mathis has the team's only assist. The three goals-against were scored by the L.A. Galaxy on April 9 . . . GK D.J. Countess is tied with Columbus' Jon Busch at the top of the league in saves (13) and shutouts (2). He also is tied for second with Busch in saves percentage (81.3). . . . MF Andy Williams will miss the game due to a groin strain sustained against the Galaxy. MF Brian Kamler sat out of practice this week with a groin strain, but should play. Mathis should start, despite a knee inflammation.
About Dallas: This is the only game they will play against RSL in the Cotton Bowl. But the teams' next match in Dallas on Sept. 18, they will be on their new home field at the Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Center . . . They have one of the most potent attacks in the league with F Eddie Johnson, F Carlos Ruiz, MF Richard Mulrooney and MF Ronnie O'Brien . . . They are coming off a 3-1 road win against the league's other expansion team, Chivas USA. O'Brien's goal in that game, a 35-yard curler into the upper-left corner, was voted the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week.