RSL: Impact of new player a mystery
The first experiment with his newly acquired veteran striker yielded nothing but another loss on the road. But it was far too brief - and set against at least one extenuating circumstance - for Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger to make any firm decisions about how he plans to use Dante Washington in the future.
"We'll just play it by ear," Ellinger said.
That means fans could see Washington up front from the start, alongside fellow forward Jason Kreis, when RSL returns home next weekend to take on the Chicago Fire.
That would not be the biggest change - RSL will be without starting defenders Eddie Pope and Nelson Akwari - but it would represent a departure from the 4-5-1 formation that Ellinger has used since moving Clint Mathis back into the midfield six weeks ago.
"It doesn't matter," Kreis said. "You could play any formation you like, but as long as we get out there and we're refreshed and we're willing to put the effort forth, we're going to be successful."
Washington played the last 21 minutes of RSL's 2-0 loss at Columbus over the weekend, just a day after the Crew agreed to relinquish his rights and let RSL have him. But he was not able to help his new teammates muster much offense against his old ones, fatigued as RSL was playing its third game in seven days.
"Obviously, for myself, there was a little bit more of a personal incentive," Washington said. "So it was little bit more disappointing and frustrating. But the bottom line is we lost, and that's not good."
No, it's not.
The loss was the fourth straight on the road for RSL, which fell to 3-4-2 going into its first game against the Fire.
And though the team is unbeaten in four games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, it will have to juggle its back line because Pope has left to train with the U.S. national team and Akwari must sit out serving a suspension for acquiring three yellow cards in three games.
Meanwhile, the Fire replaced half of their back line by choice over weekend, and the move helped them improve to 4-4-1 by beating Colorado 2-1 at home. The Fire had lost back-to-back home games while allowing six goals and not scoring any.
"The changes needed to be made," Chicago's Logan Pause said.
A quarter of the way through the season, RSL still is searching for the perfect combination that will unleash what it believes to be a powerful collection of talent -- though it has outscored opponents 6-3 at home and looked pretty strong doing it.
And that's where Ellinger figures Washington can help, whether he starts or not.
"We traded for Dante simply because we lack that kind of personality on our team," Ellinger said. "He'll add some size up front, and we just felt that it's going to add something to us as we go through the season."
Washington and Kreis played together for three full seasons in Dallas from 1997 to 1999, combining for 58 goals in that span. And though Kreis recalled that he spent much of that time as a midfielder before moving to forward, he agreed that the reunion "could be good."
"Potentially, it could be real good," he said. "But we'll need to spend time together before we really click."
Chicago at RSL
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.