With only five days left until Real Salt Lake takes to the pitch for the opening round of the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs against the Portland Timbers, one thing is clear: Preparation is key. It is that same preparation provided by Interim Head Coach Freddy Juarez and the coaching staff that has given the squad confidence heading into a game against a strong Portland side that RSL has yet to defeat this year.
“I think first, even just from the vibes, the guys don’t seem too antsy or stressed,” Juarez said. “That’s the biggest part. It’s how you contain your emotions throughout the week and I’ve seen nothing but positives from the guys.”
Following training on Tuesday, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Damir Kreilach echoed similar sentiments that rather than focusing on the elements that they cannot control, the team is choosing to focus on all the little details about themselves, getting better individually and as a team to ensure that they are the best version of Real Salt Lake come Saturday regardless of who suits up opposite them. Because it’s not about the past, or about what ‘could have been’ it’s about making sure everyone is prepared for now to start the next chapter in this season, the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to play our game,” Juarez said.
This next chapter presents an opportunity to do just that as the postseason offers a unique chance to start with a clean slate in a whole new ball game and because of this, the team feels that while Portland may have bested them previously it doesn’t mean they have the upper hand.
“The last game away we gave them a little bit of a scare, but I thought overall we played well and just didn’t put our chances away,” Rimando said. “So this game we’ll be ready for. I think in any sport it’s tough to beat a team three times in a year and I think they know that. It’s playoffs, it’s a new season and we’re all looking forward to it.”
And while the pressure is on from the outside for a club that hasn’t won MLS Cup in ten years, for the men of RSL it's simply one day at a time. And with the new one-and-done format for this year’s playoffs it’s even more crucial to focus on each game at hand, as one mistake could send the team off on an unwanted early vacation.
But despite the past results and the new format, the team feels confident going forward and it’s because of the time focusing inward that the squad feels they know how to stifle a strong side like the Timbers.
“Now we know how they want to play, what their strengths are and at the end of the day it’s how we want to play,” Kreilach said. “We have a few days to concentrate for this game and be the best version of ourselves.”
Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT from Rio Tinto Stadium. Tickets are available at RSL.com/Tickets or by calling 844-REAL-TIX (844-732-5849).