SANDY, Utah – In 2011, Real Salt Lake kicked off the MLS Cup playoffs in style, posting a 3-0 win over the Seattle Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium. Just days later, they found themselves at CenturyLink Field, holding on for dear life in what eventually became a 3-2 aggregate victory.
The roles are reversed this year, as RSL begin the series in Seattle on Friday evening (10 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). So how would the team like to return to Utah after the first leg this time?
"Yeah, a 3-0 win, 5-0 even better," joked head coach Jason Kreis. "No, I think that you have a baseline objective that you go into these games with, what you'd like to come back home with. But again, for me, it is no time now – because it is playoffs – to start saying we are just going to focus on results, because we know we can't get the results if we don't focus on performance and all the details that go into performances."
Midfield stalwart Will Johnson echoed his coach's sentiments.
"I'm not sure there is a perfect scenario," he said. "These games change so much, a goal here or there changes every game. Just as long as we stay together, execute our tactics, that will be the perfect game."
Defender Nat Borchers opted to be a bit more specific in what would be an acceptable result for his team.
"For us, we'd like to come home with a win, that would be fantastic. If we get a draw, that'd be OK," said Borchers. "If we go down a goal, or go down two goals, all right, we're still going to be OK. We're coming back home, going to play in Rio Tinto, our home stadium. We always play well there. I don't think we're going to be very concerned either way."
Historically in the MLS Cup playoffs, the higher-seeded team, or the one opening on the road and closing at home, have advanced more often. But with RSL, that stat is reversed – the Claret-and-Cobalt have gone 5-1 in playoff series in which they have been the lower seed, included their run to the 2009 title as the No. 8 seed.
Borchers, however, isn't one to buy into that trend too much.
"I think when the mindset changes, when we go away first, it doesn't change much for us," the defender explained. "We are still going to play the same way. We are going to play aggressive, we are going to try to push the tempo, we're going to try to get a goal, and we are going to hope for the best result possible."