As one would imagine, spirits have been great for Real Salt Lake in training this week.
First, the club is coming off a critical win over Portland the last time out, and secondly, everyone is very well rested after last weekend’s game at Colorado was postponed because of COVID-19 precautions with the Rapids.
“The week has been a very good week in training overall,” said RSL coach Freddy Juarez. “It’s not perfect, there’s still some players that could maybe get better, but overall the intensity, the quality, the focus ... we finally had the time to do the things that will hopefully carry us through the next week or so.”
Adding to the positivity is the fact that Albert Rusnak is back on the training field as well after missing the last four games while away in Europe with the Slovakian national team. He’s been solo training with RSL’s coaches because of MLS quarantine requirements after returning from Europe, but Juarez said the midfielder is sharp and ready to go this Saturday against visiting FC Dallas (7:30 p.m., KMYU) if called up.
In the fight for playoff positioning, Kyle Beckerman agreed Saturday’s match against Dallas is the biggest of the season — “until the next one,” he was quick to add.
RSL has four matches remaining in the regular season — assuming the Colorado match isn’t rescheduled — and at the moment is on the outside of the MLS playoff picture in ninth place. It’s level on points with Vancouver with 21, but the Whitecaps own the tiebreaker with more wins.
“We were right around that playoff line (last year) and the next thing you know we finish third. Anything is possible, we just have to put together a couple wins, we got to get hot here and go on a run.” — RSL’s Kyle Beckerman
There’s a logjam of teams tied with 24 points above in the standings, including FC Dallas and RSL’s opponent next Wednesday, San Jose.
If Real Salt Lake is going to climb back above the playoff line, success the next two games is a must.
Veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman said drawing upon the experience of past playoff pushes could help the team down the home stretch of the season.
“We were right around that playoff line (last year) and the next thing you know we finish third. Anything is possible, we just have to put together a couple wins, we got to get hot here and go on a run,” said Beckerman.
He isn’t worried about the pressure of trying to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
“There’s always pressure, but pressure’s a good thing it means there’s opportunity and it means you’re playing for something big. Bring on the pressure, and we just need to go perform and find a way to win,” said Beckerman.
Dallas comes into town coming off a 3-0 loss at Nashville on Tuesday, and realistically hasn’t been in good form for a while with a 1-3-2 over the past month.
Despite those struggles, Juarez said FC Dallas is a very good team in possession. It doesn’t play the same type of transition soccer as past years, but is still capable of beating teams multiple ways.
RSL has had 10 days to prepare for FC Dallas, preparation that hasn’t been realistic much this season with the congested MLS regular season schedule.
If that preparation leads to a win on Saturday, RSL is right back in the playoff discussion. If not, maximum points might be required the final three games of the season.