SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake is headed to Kansas City for a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup Final, but the team that was a kick away from winning the title insists it isn't looking for redemption.
“The most important thing is playing well and trying to get a result,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters. “We're not going to win the MLS Cup on Saturday, but we can put ourselves in a good position to get back to it this year. That's what it's all about.”
Midfielder Javier Morales said Saturday's game is all about this season, not about last season.
“You can't go to the past and play those games again,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “If we go there and win the game, nothing's going to change from last year. We have to focus on Saturday.”
“There's going to be plenty of other regular season games,” RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy told MLSsoccer.com. “I don't think that this one's that much more important than the next one.”
Salt Lake's most frustrating loss of 2013 was, of course, in the MLS Cup Final. But among the most frustrating regular-season losses last year came in Rio Tinto Stadium on July 20 when the ref's whistle got stuck in his pocket and Kansas City won on a 97th-minute goal.
“That, from our standpoint, was one of the more difficult losses just because of the way we lost the game,” RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy told MLSsoccer.com.
To call that regular-season match scrappy would be an understatement. There were a total of 26 fouls and six yellow cards — including two to RSL defender Chris Wingert, leaving his team down a man for the last 24 minutes of regular and the extended extra time
Ike Opara's stoppage time goal not only cost RSL the game, but it cost them the home-field advantage in the MLS Cup Final. And the last thing anyone in Salt Lake wants is to get to the end of the 2014 campaign and have something like that come back to haunt them again.
“These games mean something later on,” Cassar said. “It's not the final that we're replaying, we're trying to take care of business in this game because everything comes back to points and goals-against and goals-for. So we just need to take care of the things that we can.”
RSL is expecting the kind of high-pressure tactics they saw from SKC in 2013. And they're hoping to be better prepared for it this time around.
“This week we worked on dealing with pressure,” Cassar said. “Not just getting caught up in the pressure, but actually dealing with it and playing our kind of soccer.”
With an emphasis on defending SKC's set plays. From there, it's a matter of “whose soccer is going to shine through.”
“Right from the whistle, we're going to have to compete,” Cassar said. “Get the ball back on the ground and play around their pressure rather than through their pressure.”