SANDY, Utah – In their 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis raised some eyebrows prior to the opening kick due to the lineup he put forth.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Prior to heading to Panama for a CONCACAF Champions League match during the week, Kreis left behind Andy Williams, Nat Borchers and Chris Wingert to give them some rest. So it wasn’t unusual that they were included in the starting 11 against the Rapids.
The surprise, however, came when the defending champs took the pitch without key players Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman Jamison Olave, Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio.
The move appeared to be part of a strategy designed by Kreis to allow some key players to get some rest in anticipation of next week’s crucial CONCACAF battle in Toronto, as well as to set the team up to make a run in the final stretch for the playoffs.
“We’re going to put all of our cards on the table for [the CCL game],” explained Kreis after the game against Colorado. “We feel like the that's the one that we have to get a result in, and wrap up this Champions League stuff so that we can then turn our attention back to the Supporters’ Shield and the playoffs.”
Besides being in a good position to advance to the next round of the Champions League, RSL now have a solid chance of taking over the lead in the Supporters' Shield race, considering Los Angeles' defeat at the hands of New York on Friday. As of Saturday night, the Galaxy are only two points ahead of RSL in the quest for the Shield.
“We’re now one [win] away from being ahead of [the Galaxy], and not on the tie-breaker,” said Kreis. “So we put ourselves in a good position.”
The lineup moves also showed the confidence that the team has in the entire squad. Borchers believes in the Real Salt Lake machine, and felt like there was little let down by the players filling in tonight.
“We’ve got a system here and I think every guy understands how to play in that system,” said the defender, who scored the crucial tying goal in the 93rd minute. “I thought we played it very well.”
As for the match itself, it appeared that the makeshift lineup performed reasonably well early on before conceding the goal.
“I thought we played well,” said Williams. “I thought we outplayed [Colorado] and created a lot of chances. It was just one of these games that wasn’t going our way, but we stuck with it and equalized.”
The tying goal came courtesy of a long-distance ball Williams sent into the box.
“I was just trying to get it in there,” the midfielder explained. “The first person I saw was [Saborío] and, you know, he’s got hops.”
Instead of finding his actual target, the ball found its way to the head of Borchers, a player not known for his offensive prowess.
“[Williams] puts those things in there on a dime, and so I couldn’t have missed it,” said Borchers, who jokingly added, “I scored, so I think everybody is pretty happy for me.”
All in all, Kreis was pleased with the performance. In fact, he would have been happy even without the late equalizer.
“I don’t honestly feel like I would have been largely disappointed [had we lost],” he said. “We keep telling our players if they give us their best, that’s good enough, and that means the result isn’t always the most important thing.
“Tonight, I felt like all the players that went out there gave us their absolute best.”