LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake's defense was the story during the 2010 regular season. They held opponents to an MLS record low 20 goals, and defenders Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave were named MLS Best XI defenders (Olave also came away with the Defender of the Year award).
But that didn't translate to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. RSL gave up 11 goals in their six matches, with eight coming on the road. Of course, the highlight of those matches included the 5-4 goal fest in Mexico City where RSL lost to Cruz Azul amid a torrential downpour.
The team is looking to improve on those defensive performances in their knockout-round matches. If they can do so against Columbus on Tuesday, they are likely to have a lot of success in this series.
Defender Chris Wingert feels that the focus on defense will be incredibly important.
“Especially with going to their place first and then coming back here," he said from training this past weekend before the team departed for Ohio. "So if we go there and get a zero, we know we’re in a pretty good spot. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it certainly is our focus.”
RSL's defense is ahead of the offense at this point in the preparations. Because of that, the team plans to dedicate extra attention to the defensive side of the ball.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it takes a while for things to go right with the ball,” explained head coach Jason Kreis. “And so if you can be very, very solid defensively, you can put yourself in a very good situation.”
On top of those reasons, the conditions may also dictate a very defensive match.
“I think it will be low-scoring [and] tight,” midfielder Will Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it will be sloppy. I think the field, the weather, the temperatures will play a big role in how it goes. It’s difficult to predict. but I wouldn’t expect an abundance of pretty soccer being played in below freezing temperatures.”
Join the chat on MLSsoccer.com for the Columbus Crew-Real Salt Lake CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday, beginning at 7:45 pm ET!
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