There's a triple-dose of good news for Real Salt Lake today.

First of all, it's back home after a disastrous performance at Dallas last weekend. Secondly, visiting San Jose has one of the most porous defenses in the league — good news for an RSL team with just two tallies this year. Finally, and perhaps the best news, Andy Williams is back in the starting lineup.

"I'm ready to go 90 minutes," said Williams, the Jamaican international who's missed the past two games with a groin injury.

Kickoff for Real (1-2-1) and San Jose (1-1-2) is set for 7:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

With a fit Williams raring to go, the only decision left for Salt Lake coach John Ellinger is where to start him. He's tinkering with the idea of keeping Clint Mathis at attacking midfield, while starting Williams and Jason Kreis at forward. Or, he could simply slide Williams back into his natural attacking midfield role and move Mathis back up top.

Either way, Ellinger is ecstatic to have Williams back on the field.

"He's instant offense," said Ellinger. "When he played the full match against New York he played very well."

The timing of his return couldn't be better for Real Salt Lake, the lowest-scoring team in the league four games into the season.

Despite a potent scoring attack that's netted nine goals, San Jose's only won once in four games thanks to a defense that's allowed nine goals.

"We hope the trend continues, obviously, with San Jose defensively," said Ellinger. "We still feel offensively we have some weapons that haven't been unleashed yet. So hopefully (today's) the day they get unleashed and we score some goals."

At the other end of the field, there's nothing iffy about the Earthquakes.

Standing at an imposing 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, U.S. National Team forward Brian Ching is a massive challenge for opposing defenses, and few have been able to slow him down this year. Already he has three goals and two assists. Fellow forward Ronald Cerritos has two goals and two assists.

Left midfielder Brian Davis has chipped in with four assists and one goal.

"With the players San Jose has, they're an attacking-minded team," said RSL's Clint Mathis. "They send a lot of guys forward, and if we can counterattack them when they do that, that's where they've given up goals. And hopefully we can do the same."

Whether those counters happen depends largely on Ellinger's revamped defense.

After a home-opening shutout against Colorado two weeks ago, Ellinger was particularly confident in his defensive unit. A week later, however, Eddie Pope has been suspended because of a red card against Dallas, and Ellinger has decided to sit Marlon Rojas after his sluggish performance at Dallas as well.

That opens the door for Matt Behncke (center back) and Nelson Akwari (left back) to return to the starting lineup. The duo started the first two games of the season, but both were relegated to the bench following a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles in Week 2.

"(Matt) started the week very good. Tuesday he came with an edge that he hadn't had in a while, and he'd be the first to tell you," said Ellinger. "We decided to make a change (at left back) to give Nelson a start to see how he does. Marlon is still a good player; he was consistent in three of the four games he played."

Against Dallas, however, Rojas was extremely inconsistent with his man marking. Ellinger was particularly critical of him giving defenders as much as 10 feet of space, when it should be no more than three at the MLS level.

The return of holding midfielder Brian Kamler should also give the defense a boost. After staring the first three games, the 10-year veteran missed last week's game with a groin injury. He'll be supported on the wings by Leslie Fitzpatrick out left and Chris Brown — a former San Jose Earthquake — out right.

ENDLINES: Tonight's game will not be televised locally. The game will, however, be broadcast on AM-1280. For tickets, fans can visit the Rice-Eccles Stadium ticket office, by calling 581-UTIX, or by logging onto www.utahtickets.com.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com