Real Salt Lake-Toronto FC Preview
Real Salt Lake is riding its longest winning streak in league play this season, and it just clinched its first berth in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
Coach Jason Kreis, though, doesn't want his team to get overconfident.
Facing an improving Toronto FC side on Saturday should get Salt Lake's attention - particularly considering that it's never scored at BMO Field.
Since finding the back of the net seven times in its opening nine MLS matches, RSL (9-5-3) has outscored its opponents 19-7 during a 6-1-1 run that has the club tied with Portland for the most points in MLS.
"Young players need to be concerned with one thing - getting better every day and giving their best in training sessions,'' Kreis told the club's official website. "They don't need to concern themselves with how many points this team has at all. If they're doing that, they're certainly not going to be in the right mindset to further their game.''
Salt Lake, winner of six straight across all competitions, is now focused on Toronto (2-7-6) after Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and Alvaro Saborio scored in Wednesday's 3-0 victory over the Carolina Railhawks that put the team in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Timbers on Aug. 7.
For now, Kreis would love to figure out why RSL is 0-3-2 at Toronto after losing 1-0 in its last visit Aug. 13, 2011. Joao Plata, now with Salt Lake, netted the lone goal.
"There's a lot of complications with going to places so far away," Kreis said. "Other than that, I can't really put my finger on (why we struggle in Toronto)."
Salt Lake's struggles at BMO Field could continue if Toronto can build on its first clean sheet of the season, last Saturday's scoreless draw with Houston. Joe Bendik stopped all four shots he faced.
"I think the guys can really grow from this result," coach Ryan Nelsen told the club's official website. "They have always had belief, but it is good that their belief and their performances are now turning into points."
The Reds are 1-0-2 overall following five consecutive losses, but they've posted an 0-2-4 record against visitors since March 9. The team record for consecutive home games without a win is seven.
Toronto's struggles on offense are still a concern - the Reds are tied for the second-fewest goals in MLS - but the recent return of Danny Koevermans gives the club another strong scoring option next to Robert Earnshaw, the team leader with six goals.
Saborio, RSL's leader with five goals across all competitions, will not play due to international duty, but captain Kyle Beckerman, Beltran and goaltender Nick Rimando will play one more game for Salt Lake before joining the U.S. national team.
Beckerman finished with a goal and an assist in RSL's last match against Toronto, a 3-2 victory April 28, 2012.