With three of next four games at home, Real Salt Lake has opportunity to build significant momentum

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha (14) control the ball, in MLS soccer action at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday, March 9, 2019.

Herriman • Real Salt Lake may be disappointed in the close loss to the L.A. Galaxy over the weekend, but it has a prime opportunity to pick up a smorgasbord of points over the next month or so.

Three of RSL’s next four games are at Rio Tinto Stadium, and the lone road matchup is against the bottom-dwelling Colorado Rapids. Three of the teams Salt Lake will play between Saturday and May 24 — Portland Timbers, Colorado and Atlanta United — have a combined record of 4-15-5. Th other team they’ll play is Toronto FC, which is 4-2-1 and fourth in the Eastern Conference.

RSL has had a mostly up-and-down season thus far, playing well in spurts and lamenting over many a missed opportunity. But this stretch of four games looks almost tailored to get Salt Lake on track.

Defender Nedum Onuoha said Wednesday after training that having a stretch of home games carries a different type of pressure because fans go to games expecting the home team to win.


When • Saturday, 7 p.m.


“I think to be able to play in a game and have the advantage of having a crowd there and have people behind you and stuff and be in your home environment — very comfortable in those surroundings — it’s understandable why, when you do go on those stretches, you have to well,” Nedum said.

But while RSL is getting ready to face some of the league’s worst teams, some on the team aren’t focusing on the records.

“Every game, you treat it the same whether you’re playing a team that’s not lost all season or a team that’s lost every game,” Onuoha said. “Otherwise, you can start to become complacent. When you play this game and you do start to become complacent, you can lose to absolutely anybody. … It doesn’t really make any difference who we play. Just as long as we play well.”

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke called the next three home games “tough” and dismissed Atlanta United’s poor overall record. He said the Timbers will present the most difficult midfield RSL has faced all season.

But the goal is the same as it’s been all season: Win the home games and look to improve on the road.

“We have to take care of business at home,” Petke said.

Midfielder Damir Kreilach, however, isn’t thinking about the next month’s worth of games. While he thinks the stretch is an advantage, he just wants to figure out how to beat Portland.

“We have to think step by step,” Kreilack said. “Because of that, we have to prepare [ourselves] for first game against Portland and then we’ll see what we’ll be after that.”

Zlatan didn’t try to apologize

Onuoha, who had a run-in with the L.A. Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday, said Ibrahimovic did not actually try to apologize to him or shake his hand. Instead, Onuoha said, Ibrahimovic merely asked him if he had calmed down yet.

Onuoha, already upset after having lost the game, did not want to entertain Ibrahimovic, and said as much both after the game and reiterated that Wednesday.

“Myself, and maybe one or two others, just told him where to go,” Onuoha said.

Rimando getting closer

Petke said keeper Nick Rimando, who has missed two consecutive games with a knee injury, has been progressing with his rehab. Rimando did some work Tuesday, Petke said, and may be on the field Thursday in some capacity.

“He’s coming along,” Petke said.