Well I said it several weeks ago that June could be the most important month of the season for Real Salt Lake. With three huge Western Conference league matches at home, all against 2012 playoff teams it was critical that RSL get as many points as possible. San Jose and the LA Galaxy both found themselves on the wrong end of the final score this month, and final days of RSL advanced past the Atlanta Silverbacks, even if it did take and extra 30 minutes. In each of these matches RSL showed that they can score goals even without Alvaro Saborio in the lineup, something that was an issue last year, by scoring 3 goals in each of their wins.
Now RSL faces a few new challenges as they look to finish out the month of June, first up is another US Open Cup match, again at home, as the Charleston Battery (who eliminated the San Jose Earthquakes) will come to town on June 12th for a 7:30pm showdown. This is another match that on paper a MLS should win every time, but as we saw in the last round, none of these matches are easy and you must fight for every result. RSL head coach Jason Kreis says that his team is focused on the US Open Cup more this year than ever before and it is something the players want to win as well. If the team needed any extra motivation, a win on Wednesday will set them up for another home match (June 26th) a match that would feature the winner of Chivas USA vs. Carolina RailHawks vs. the winner of the RSL/Battery match.
Should RSL win it would set up a really busy week to end the month of June, on the 22nd the Seattle Sounders will come to Rio Tinto Stadium for the second time this season, and both teams are in top form right now, with 6-2-2 records in their last 10 matches. For the Sounders an unusual early round departure from the US Open Cup and not being in the Champions League this fall, has left them to focus on league matches and they are doing just that.
The Sounders match will mark the halfway point of the season for RSL, and a win would put RSL on 30 points from 17 matches (1.76 ppm average), while a draw would put them on 28 points (1.65 ppm), and a unthinkable loss would leave them at 27 points (1.59 ppm). If RSL maintains the same level of performance in the second half of the season as the first they should become the first team in MLS history to score 50 points in 4 straight seasons, as their range would be from a low of 54 to a high of 60 points. We have seen teams play very well at the start of seasons or end of seasons, but RSL over the years has been fairly consistent over the length of the seasons. One thing is clear the start has been probably better than a lot of people expected and it has been done with a larger number of players contributing significant minutes over the first half of the season than usual for RSL.
After the Sounders come to town, RSL will head to Canada in search of their first ever win north of the border as they go to BMO field in Toronto to take on the revamped but still struggling TFC (1-7-5). Then again RSL did already lose on the road to the other one win team in MLS, when they dropped a 0-1 result at DC United back in March. The upside for RSL is that they are a much more complete team than they were back then, and Toronto sure isn’t showing a lot of signs of life at the moment. So this could present the best chance for RSL to pick up a victory in Canada.
It has been exciting watching the team really start to gel, and to watch some of the younger players start to develop, I keep going back to what Garth said before the start of the season:” that RSL would be a better team in June than they are in March, and a better team in October than they are in June”. If he is right then I think RSL fans are in for a great summer and an amazing fall.
That’s How I See It