As the teams with the second- and third-best records respectively, questions have been raised as to whether the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake should be playing each other on Saturday (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer/TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) in the first round of their playoff runs.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis is certainly bothered by it, but hardly for his own team’s sake.
“You have to feel particularly aggrieved for Seattle,” Kreis told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “After the season they’ve had and put together, to have to turn around and play us rather than what should be a wild card team really if it was the other way is a particularly poor place for them to be.”
The draw doesn’t particularly favor RSL, either. Should they make it out of their two-leg tie against the Sounders, the Claret-and-Cobalt will have to play three games in a week, one of which will come on the turf of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
“Anytime you’re going to play three matches in a week ... and one of them being on an artificial surface, you got to question yourself and you got to question some of the players that have some lingering injuries as to whether or not they can make it through and be equally effective in all three of those matches,” Kreis said.
Question of form
Despite their third-best record in MLS, RSL finished off the season on a six-game winless streak.
The question is whether they can break out of their slump now that the playoffs have arrived.
“For me, that’s a question that’s best answered on the field,” Kreis said. “For a lot of teams, to not get a win in their last six matches heading into the playoffs would spell doom and gloom. ... I think that we have a group that should head into this with a positive mind set. If we’re mature enough, and if we believe in ourselves enough, then we’re not going let the fact that we haven’t gotten a win in six matches determine how we feel about ourselves.”
There have been times this season when RSL’s emotions boiled over on the field. Kyle Beckerman is coming off a red card suspension for an ill-advised headbutt on Chicago Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini, and Kreis himself was the subject of questions after a sensationalized face-off with LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.
But according to Kreis, there’s no problem with RSL’s emotions. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing.
“The group is led by an emotional coach, a very passionate coach about what he does,” Kreis said of himself. “Sometimes he probably lets himself be a little more emotional than he ought to.
"I don’t know that I think it’s the worst thing in the world for our players to care a whole lot and not really accept any other result than winning. That’s what we set down for ourselves as club. We win here and when we don’t and things don’t go our way, or when we’re faced with multiple, multiple decisions by referees over our season that put us in very, very bad positions, sometimes we tend to boil over.”
Kreis said that it was important that players were coming back from injuries and suspensions. But in order to keep a full team available for the playoffs, RSL can ill-afford any more suspensions.
“If we can accept responsibility for that, be accountable for our mistakes and then move on,” the coach said, “I don’t think there should be a problem with that.”