SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake makes what is most likely their last trip to Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night — and they're hoping for a different result than their most recent trip.
Back on March 15, RSL took a 3-1 first-half lead only to give up goals in the 75th and 95th minutes, costing them two precious points in the standings.
“We started off excellent in that game,” RSL Coach Jeff Cassar told reporters, adding that he has confidence his team learned from that earlier match. “But right now, they're a little bit of a different team than that team, anyways, without [Alan] Gordon, without [Steven] Lenhart.”
San Jose traded Gordon to the LA Galaxy; Lenhart is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 1. Without them, the Earthquakes are not so much “bruisers in the box,” Cassar said. “Now you have Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] and Tommy Thompson … who are a little bit more wanting the ball to their feet. It's a little bit different look, which probably suits us better in the long run, but it's a team we're going to really focus on ourselves this week.”
Cassar said it's important for his team to break on top early.
“I think it's really just about making sure they don't gain any confidence,” he said. “Don't allow them get into any type of rhythm — start sniffing around the goal and then their confidence comes back that they used to have. So we want to keep them unsure of themselves at the moment and make sure that we stay on the front foot.”
San Jose has been tumbling toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings — they're eight points out of a playoff position, and only one point ahead of last-place Chivas USA. The Earthquakes (6-10-7, 25 points) are winless in their last four games, and have given up a whopping 12 goals.
“But that doesn't mean that they're going to play poorly this weekend,” said RSL defender Chris Winger. “They're extremely dangerous, especially at their place. And they're capable of scoring a lot of goals. We know how prolific their attack is. We can't get caught up in the fact that they've lost a couple games.”
San Jose “is a team that regardless of where they’re at in the standings are going to work their butt off and tackle and put the effort on the field,” said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. “They also have some good players and Wondolowski can score at any given moment, so we’ve got to be organized and play a lot more mature of a game this weekend to get a result.”
Real Salt Lake (11-5-9, 42 points) is in a tight four-way race in the West and needs a win to keep pace with Seattle, LA and Dallas. And looking for one last win in Buck Shaw stadium.
“It's a great little atmosphere that they have,” Cassar said. “The fans are really intense there.... There's been some good memories there. There's been some great games. But I'm sure everyone's ready to move on to the next stadium,” he said with a laugh.