LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake are trying to accomplish two things they’ve never done in one shot at during their CONCACAF Champions League contest in Toronto on Tuesday: score a goal at BMO Field and advance into the CCL knockout stages.
Yes, it’s true. Despite all of their recent success, Real Salt Lake have never scored a goal at BMO Field. They won’t necessarily need one to get what they need from their trip north of the border (a scoreless draw will also likely push RSL into the quarterfinals), but don’t be surprised if Jason Kreis’ team comes out attacking.
Kreis has held back a few cards from his hand for precisely this moment. He could have gone all in during last Saturday’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium for a win against Colorado, but instead he fielded a lineup that he felt could still get a result at home, saving some of his trump cards for this match in Toronto.
[inline_node:311771]Missing from that starting lineup were Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Findley, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nick Rimando, Will Johnson and Javier Morales. All of them are bona fide starters, and represent the best of what RSL has to offer. And all of them except Morales (quadriceps injury) are options to play in Toronto.
The lineup maneuvering from Kreis represented two things. First, it showed glimpse into his priorities, and that advancing out of CCL group play takes as much as precedence over fighting it out with the LA Galaxy over the Supporters’ Shield.
Second, the moves highlighted the respect that Kreis is showing for fellow CONCACAF Group A opponent, Cruz Azul. While Rio Tinto Stadium could be renamed The Fortress, after RSL have managed to remain unbeaten in 30 consecutive matches played there, the last thing Kreis wants to face is a must-win situation against a quality Mexican opponent also fighting for their lives in the tournament. Even at home.
“We’re going to put all our cards on the table for [the game in Toronto],” Kreis said after the home draw against Colorado. “I feel like that is the one we have to get a result in to wrap up this Champions League stuff so that we can turn our focus to the Supporters' Shield and the playoffs.”
The last sentence highlights Kreis’ other priority: the playoffs. The Houston Dynamo went into the 2008 postseason exhausted, and the Columbus team that RSL dismantled last season in the playoffs that had no rhythm as a unit as a result of playing mixed lineups right up to the very end of CCL group play. Kreis surely doesn’t want to see that happen to his team.