SANDY — There’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Real Salt Lake.
It’s been a chaotic past three weeks with games stacked up almost every three days, but that stretch of six games in 19 days finally comes to an end Saturday against expansion Orlando City (8 p.m., KMYU) at sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium.
Except for the red card debacle in New York, it’s been a pretty successful stretch ... but coach Jeff Cassar said he’ll withhold judgment until after Saturday's match.
“I think three points at home tomorrow and we can say it was productive, but we have to get three points tomorrow. It’s getting to the time where we can’t be dropping points,” Cassar said.
Real Salt Lake is 3-1-1 over the previous five games, but two of those wins were in U.S. Open Cup play — including Wednesday’s win over Portland. It needs victories in league play to climb back into a Western Conference playoff position.
Javier Morales believes that the strong second half against Portland could be the catapult his team needs.
“I think it’s about confidence. I think the second half was great for us, the locker room is happy right now, so we’re happy to play right away,” said Morales.
With several marquee players away on international duty, Cassar was thrilled with the manner in which Real Salt Lake beat Portland to advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals.
"I think the guys are just really recognizing that it starts with hard work. It starts with everybody attacking. We are doing some things differently this year. We're going to have our ups and downs, but what has to be the base of our foundation is hard work. Being together. Not about the name on the back of your jersey, but the crest on the front and you're really seeing it in these last four games,” said Cassar.
On Saturday, RSL will be facing the biggest name in MLS.
Orlando City made a splash by signing legendary Brazilian midfielder Kaka — a former FIFA World Player of the Year — heading into its expansion season.
He hasn’t disappointed, starting all 17 games for Orlando and he's tied for third in MLS with eight goals.
“His soccer IQ is just off the charts. You can see that. When they play into him the movement off the ball is very good because they know they’re going to receive the ball,” said Cassar.
Orlando has fed off of Kaka’s contributions and is currently tied for third place in the weaker Eastern Conference.
“They’re a pretty good team, it’s not just Kaka” said Morales.
Even though Orlando City has won three of its past four matches, it will have its hands full against sizzling RSL striker Sebastian Jaime. He has scored in three of his past four matches and is putting to rest the notion that he wouldn’t last in MLS
“He’s working hard. When he came here he came with a lot of pressure, everyone talking about him. He couldn’t score for a long time, but after the first one he’s scored like every game,” said a smiling Morales.
RSL is 2-1-7 all-time in Fourth of July games at home, which includes last year’s 2-1 win over New England.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.