08-03-11@KC_schuler-bunbury (620x350)

Morale a question mark after latest RSL loss

Real Salt Lake are clearly in a funk, and head coach Jason Kreis isn't mincing words about the potential for a third straight loss when his club takes on New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

“It better be real bad,” said Kreis about his team’s reaction to RSL's 2-0 loss to Sporting KC on Wednesday. “Because my morale is real bad.

“We need guys right now to feel that pain, because I honestly feel that we’re at a precipice for our season right now," he added. "We need a huge game on Saturday, a huge effort. We need these guys to pull together and give absolutely everything they have because to have three losses in a row would be monstrously bad.”

It’s only been two league matches, and it’s hard to draw a trend from the SKC loss and a rare 2-0 flop at home against the Columbus Crew the week before. RSL had actually been riding a very strong four-game stretch in which they had scored multiple goals in each game, and collectively the four games yielded a plus-eight goal differential, which is better than any that the team had experienced since May 2010.

However, over the last two matches, there are several indications that the team may have hit a low. The loss to Sporting KC marks the first time since April 2010 that they have had back-to-back losses. But perhaps more important than that is that RSL had significant stretches in each match where they appeared to be on their heels, struggling to stay with their opponent defensively.

“We’re just a little off as a team, in the team defending,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “And when you’re in a hot place against a team with a lot of confidence, if you’re not defending well as a team and they finish their chances, then you’re going to be in trouble.”

Overall RSL have given up as many goals this season as they did through 20 games last year: 16.

But the more noticeable trend is on the offensive side of the ball. Through 20 matches in 2010, the Claret-and-Cobalt had 34 goals on 229 total shots. This year, they have managed to score 27 times, but have taken a whopping 285 shots to do so.

“Obviously the last two games we’ve struggled to play our game – to just go out there and do our plan, which is to keep the ball,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “And obviously in the last two games we haven’t been able to do that. And that’s hurt us.”