Real Salt Lake has finished the first phase of the 2016 MLS regular season and has largely succeeded with flying colors. After posting a league-best 5-1-2- record through the first two months of the season, RSL now enters the second phase of the calendar with five straight road matches in the next six weeks, making for a busy and daunting schedule when looked at from 40,000 feet, but if one thing can be said about the 2016 edition of Real Salt Lake, it’s that the team will find a way.
For all of RSL’s early successes, though, the club knows there was more to be had. In two of its first three matches, RSL conceded late goals against Orlando City SC and the Portland Timbers to turn a win into a draw. Those four elusive points left RSL motivated to improve with a road map for how to reach its lofty goals for the season.
“I think you can look back and still say we maybe have left a few points out on the table,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Jeff Cassar said on The Bill Riley Show on ESPN 700 on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, we probably played one poor half of soccer and the rest has been pretty good.”
That one poor half came in RSL’s 5-2 defeat to the LA Galaxy on April 23 in LA. Outside of that half, RSL has accumulated a plus-one goal differential on the road, posting a 1-1-2 overall road record to go with a perfect 4-0-0 record (+4 GD) at home.
While late goals are to blame for the two draws, there was a deeper issue at play in both matches. Against Orlando, Demar Phillips lasted just 20 minutes before being sent off with his second yellow card. Then in a 2-2 draw with the Timbers, both Kyle Beckerman and Jamison Olave were given their walking papers.
Since then, RSL has been shown eight yellow cards in five matches with no ejections. Keeping 11 men on the field has been a boost for the club.
“We’ve gotten more intelligent. We’ve made better choices,” Cassar said. “I think that’s helping us get results.”
RSL will play its next five matches on the road while the field at Rio Tinto Stadium is replaced. That starts Saturday when Salt Lake takes on the Colorado Rapids for the second time this season, this time at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
To hear Cassar’s full interview, click here.