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Real Salt Lake looking to bounce back vs. Toronto FC

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Real Salt Lake was on the doorstep of history Wednesday night in a Mexico City monsoon. Instead, it suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses imaginable.

Amid the busiest stretch in franchise history, now is not a time for the players to feel sorry for themselves, and it doesn't appear as if they are.

"We put a ton into that game on Wednesday night, emotionally and physically, and I think it's drained us a little bit to have such an awesome occasion right in front of us and have it snatched away at the very end," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.

"What I've seen over the past few days, both at the airport, on the plane and in the training session (Friday) is we've already moved on."

Just a few days removed from its frustrating 5-4 loss to Cruz Azul, Real Salt Lake is more than 2,000 miles away in Canada preparing for a critical league game tonight against Toronto FC.

The short turnaround isn't ideal, but Nick Rimando said the players don't necessarily mind because they're itching to get back on the field after Wednesday's late collapse.

Real Salt Lake isn't the only team trying to move on from a disappointing CONCACAF Champions League loss. Toronto FC lost a CCL match at Arabe Unido in Panama on Tuesday, and it, too, will be dealing with fatigue after a 2,400-mile plane ride home.

"It's a team in the exact same situation we are," said Kreis. "I'm expecting a very emotional affair for both sides."

It should be the first of three, actually.

Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC are lumped together in Group A of the CONCACAF Champions League. Tonight is a league game, but they'll meet again on Sept. 15 at Rio Tinto Stadium and then on Sept. 28 back at BMO Field in CCL group games.

RSL has aspirations of winning the MLS Supporters Shield and advancing into the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But realistically, it will need a result in Toronto at least once to pull off either of those goals.

It won't be easy. Toronto enjoys one of the best home-field advantages in MLS, even though it didn't show in a 4-1 loss to New York last week. Prior to that, the Canadian club was in the midst of a 17-game home unbeaten streak.

"They're a tough team at home; that's where they get the majority of their wins — like us. It's going to be a battle for sure," said Rimando. "We're both coming off losses and we want to prove something on Saturday. They're going to have the home crowd; they have great fans."

The biggest question for Real Salt Lake is who will be in the starting 11.

Kreis aggressively approached Wednesday's loss at Cruz Azul by starting almost all of his first-choice players. Three days after the emotionally sapping match, it's hard to imagine the same 11 players will be physically ready to start again.

Kreis, however, is leaning toward giving the majority the start again. In Friday's training session in Toronto, he sensed his players were itching to make amends for the defensive collapse in Mexico, where RSL squandered a seemingly safe 3-1 lead by giving up four goals in the last 20 minutes.

Now he must gauge whether those players are being truthful about their fitness.

"I really need guys not to be heroes right now. If they're not feeling it and they're feeling tired and they're dragging, they need to let us know so we can make the right decisions," said Kreis.

RSL is 2-0-2 in its past four matches, which includes a pair of road ties. Toronto, meanwhile, has lost two straight and has fallen out of playoff position.

e-mail: jedward@desnews.com