SANDY, Utah – With the possible exception of a few intensely optimistic Real Salt Lake fans, nobody is thinking seriously that the team will finish the season undefeated.
Sure, seven games into the 2014 MLS season, Real Salt Lake (3-0-4) are the sole remaining unbeaten team. Which is a point of pride for the team, but it’s not something they're obsessing over.
“It doesn't come up in our locker room,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told MLSsoccer.com.
Ask members of the team what they think their chances are of keeping the streak going until October, and they'll look at you like you're, well, intensely optimistic. No team has managed the feat since MLS launched in 1996.
The fewest losses by any squad is four, a record achieved by RSL (15-4-11) and FC Dallas (12-4-14) in 2010 and San Jose (18-4-10) in 2005 – all in shorter seasons than the current 34-game schedule.
Defender Tony Beltran acknowledged that being 3-0-4 is “great” at this point in the season.
“But it's not really something we're cognizant of or focusing on,” he told reporters. “It's a little too early to look at the standings. It's about continuing to get better each game. It's a long season.”
And that's part of Cassar's plan to keep all this in perspective.
“At the beginning of the year, I wanted the guys to concentrate on not having too high of highs and too low of lows,” he said. “So we're just going about business. It's about what we do and the work-rate and the passion and the energy that we play with. And if we bring that every week, we think that in the long haul we'll do great.”
RSL have opened seasons with seven-game streaks before, but not like this. They began both the 2006 (0-1-6) and 2007 (0-3-4) seasons with seven-game winless streaks.
And it would be easy to argue that, despite the lack of a loss, this is only the third-best start in team history. RSL's 13-point total in the standings is behind 2011 (5-1-1, 16 points) and 2012 (5-2-0, 15 points).
With 80 percent of the season left to play, RSL are a long way from setting any MLS records. The team's regular-season unbeaten streak actually stands at 11; it ended the 2013 season on a 2-0-2 run. But even that is still well short of not only the all-time MLS regular-season unbeaten streak of 19 games (held by Columbus 2004-05 and Dallas 2010), but of the RSL team record of 18 games (2010-11).
“Obviously, the media's talking about it,” RSL defender Chris Wingert told MLSsoccer.com, “but we've just got to try to make sure we keep earning points. We realize that we're not going to go undefeated the whole season. We're not too worried about being undefeated, but we are worried about winning that next game.”
That starts with Saturday's home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a team RSL haven't lost to against in four straight matches.
“We aren't thinking about [being unbeaten],” RSL midfielder Javier Morales told MLSsoccer.com. “We think about every game. Now, Vancouver, we try to win. Then we go to Chicago [on May 3] and try to win. If we lose, that's what happens. Sooner or later, that's what happens.”
Not that he's downplaying his team's great start.
“I like it. I like to be undefeated,” Morales said. “I hope that we can keep that record for a long time, but it's just game by game.”