That loud grinding noise coming from Boston is the sound of Real Salt Lake switching gears.
RSL are coming off of a historic, emotional battle against Saprissa in Costa Rica that resulted in the Utah club moving on to the Champions League finals. But there is no time to relax before changing focus to their MLS opponents this Saturday, the New England Revolution (7:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).
“There was really zero celebration occurring,” said head coach Jason Kreis of the atmosphere after the Saprissa match.
That was partly because they didn’t feel like they had yet achieved the ultimate goal of winning Champions League, but also largely due to the fact that the team had to hop onto a flight early the next day in order to make the voyage to New England. That trip would last from the morning after the match, and continued until nearly 2 am the following morning.
[inline_node:333030]“I think it could be difficult,” Kreis said of the transition, “but I think we’ve got a group that has played in so many important matches and has already had to shift gears through last season and the early part of this season, and they’ve done a good job of it so far.”
Defender Nat Borchers feels like there are key differences playing against MLS teams.
“Defending [against] these international teams, whether it’s Saprissa or Cruz Azul, it’s a lot different than defending in the MLS,” Borchers explained. “I think these international teams use different widths and you have to be aware of the different services and different kinds of passing in dangerous situations.
“The teams in MLS are a little more physical. It’s a little more obvious where guys are going. It’s easier to read a bit, but at the same time, the guys are more physical and more athletic and have the ability to get out of tight spaces, so it’s still going to be difficult.”
However, Borchers feels the key is to take a consistent approach no matter where the competition hails from.
“My mind set never changes,” said the RSL central defender. “Every striker can be dangerous if they’re given the ball with time and space in front of goal.”
Borchers also warns that this New England team isn’t the same team that RSL has handled rather easily over the last two years, winning three out of four matches by a 14-4 goal margin.
“I’ve seen them play against Portland about a week ago, and I thought they’ve got a different team,” Borchers said. “They’ve got some new guys that have come in and they’re technically gifted players. They’re not the same team as last year and I don’t think they’ve got the weaknesses that they had last year.”
Kreis will have some interesting choices to make for this match thanks to fixture congestion – RSL have another midweek match coming up next Wednesday. He’ll need to balance fielding competitive lineups in both matches while also giving key players the appropriate amount of rest.
One player who will be available for selection, although barely, is Paulo Jr. The Brazilian striker, on loan from the second-division Fort Lauderdale Strikers, was forced to stay an extra day in Costa Rica while his teammates made their way to Boston.
“His visa apparently needs to be renewed every 90 days,” said Kreis. “We weren’t aware of that and missed it by one day.”