Real Salt Lake visits the Columbus Crew this Saturday and finishes its first road trip of the season.
Real has played four of its first five MLS matches on the road (1-2-1), in addition to one US Open Cup match at San Jose.
Despite Real’s slow start, there are three distinct reasons to believe Real is in better shape then their record suggests.
Real has played a difficult schedule (Ives ranks Real’s opponents thus far as 1st, 4th, 6th, and 7th in MLS, with Columbus at 2nd). Real will play each MLS team twice during the season, so the side has already faced leading opponents, mostly on the road.
After this week, Real returns home for four out of five May matches. Real had the best home field advantage last season, scoring 32 of their 40 points at home.
2. LA Match
In addition, Real played a great match against LA last week until their legs finally gave out in the 2nd half (Real had already played a match during the week, while LA had not).
Coming into last Saturday’s match, LA had not surrendered a goal and only given up three total shots on goal in their first three matches. A tired Real scored on LA and posted three separate shots on goal.
In short, Real did more against LA in one match (despite being very tired) than LA’s three previous opponents combined. Real nearly got a draw out of the match, with a few key mistakes and missed opportunities causing the loss.
3. Problems to Fix
Real’s problems that have cost them matches are relatively easy to fix going forward. For instance, the side has only given up two goals in “the run of play,” meaning during normal situations. One of those was caused by exhaustion at the end of the LA match. The rest have come during set plays and penalty kicks.
Formations on set plays can be adjusted and fixed. In these cases, it is small mental lapses and not inferior ability that has cost Real. Mental adjustments can be made easily as the side moves forward.
A New Beginning
Real can get the next month off to a great start with a win or draw at Columbus. The match will begin at 5:30 p.m. MT and can be seen on KUSG 2.2 in the Salt Lake area.