Real Salt Lake has 18 games left to play in the 34-game MLS regular season. Only one team has more points.
Yet players from the Utah club are talking about Friday's match against the New England Revolution (8 pm MT, CW30) as a game in which RSL urgently need a result. Veteran defender Nat Borchers even called it a “must-win” situation.
“It's going to be a big match for us,” he told reporters.
It's a big match because RSL is definitely in need of a win. While There is not exactly an air of desperation around the team yet, the Claret-and-Cobalt have not won since May 17, going six games in all competitions without a win. Those results include a home tie and loss against Dallas and Portland respectively, and embarrassing losses to lower-division Atlanta in US Open Cup play and at last-place Chivas USA.
RSL and their coach, Jeff Cassar, are determined to stop the skid when New England come to Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night.
“It's a home game. It's July 4,” Cassar told reporters. “We need three points without a doubt. I would say every game now is extremely important. But anytime you're playing at home, it's key.”
Despite the urgency, do not expect to see captain Kyle Beckerman or goalkeeper Nick Rimando on the field on Friday. Cassar said there is no plan for when the pair, who will be returning to Utah after the US national team was eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday, will rejoin the team.
“When they come back in town, I'll talk to them and see where they're at,” he said. “But I imagine we're going to have to be smart and give them a little bit of time off. … There's a lot more games left in the season.”
Since RSL entered the league in 2005, it has been a scheduling tradition for the team to play at home on the Fourth of July weekend. Salt Lake have seen little success in those matches, however, going 1-1-7 in those pre-fireworks displays. The lone win came in 2010 — a 5-0 thrashing of none other than New England. But RSL is not expecting anything like that to happen on Friday.
“It's definitely not going to be an easy one,” Cassar said. “They're a good team.”
A good team that also had a bad game on Saturday, losing 3-1 at home to Philadelphia. The Revolution are on a bit of a losing streak themselves, having dropped three MLS matches in a row.
While Borchers remains confident Salt Lake can turn things around, praising his teammates as "one of the best groups I've ever been around" and saying they "react really well to adversity," he acknowledged a need to "have more discipline."
That came on the heels of midfielder Luke Mulholland going into a studs-up challenge and being ejected just eight minutes into last Saturday's 1-0 loss at Chivas USA.
“We've lost three games this year — two of them, we've given up red cards,” Cassar said. “It's hard enough to win with 11, but with 10, it's very hard.”