LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake garnered the combined support of Major League Soccer this April when they advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League final against Mexican side Monterrey.
The Claret-and-Cobalt fell just short in their first attempt at hardware in 2011. Their shot at redemption begins when they kick off the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Saturday against the Seattle Sounders (8:00 pm MT, FOX Soccer/TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“I’m hopeful that we’re very hungry with something to prove, because that’s how I feel,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “I feel like after last year’s playoff departure early – that gives us a little extra motivation. I feel that getting so close to the 2011 CONCACAF championship should give us some motivation because it was a bitter, bitter disappointment and we got so close and we have the same team."
Added Kreis: “And now we have the opportunity to win something meaningful in 2011, and take a step forward from where we left off in that tournament.”
RSL enter the playoffs on a six-game winless streak, though they will be boosted by the return of Kyle Beckerman from suspension as well as a healthy Javier Morales after the midfield maestro missed much of the season with a broken ankle.
But the Sounders have been nothing but impressive recently, accruing a 5-2-0 MLS record in the last two months as well as defending their US Open Cup crown.
One of those losses, however, came against RSL at CenturyLink Field.
“For me it will all show up Saturday night,” Kreis said. “Say what you will about these last several games of the regular season, our players have known for a very long time that they’re in the playoffs. So now it’s clearly all on the line. And the confidence, and the play, and the commitment levels – those are all going to be proved Saturday night, inside the lines.”
Nobody can know just what Saturday has in store, but Kreis feels like his squad should be adequately prepared – and confident — for the challenge that’s ahead of them.
“Of course, I have an idea in my mind of how I want the tactics to play out, and how I want the guys to approach the game, and what we’re after in all of the segments of the match,” Kreis said after training on Thursday, but added that “often times it just doesn’t come off that way. And so you have got to be willing to adapt your thinking during the match.”