10 keys to RSL winning three trophies this season (10 items)
Despite the recent blip in an overall dominant season, Real Salt Lake remains within reach of three trophies.
Recently bumped out of the No. 1 slot by the Seattle Sounders, RSL isn't out of the race — not even close.
There are several key games, individual performances and tactical adaptations that lie ahead of Kreis' team in the closing weeks of the MLS regular season. The Open Cup, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup trophies would each bring outstanding recognition to Real Salt Lake, but winning all three would signify an outstanding bout of MLS dominance.
With pride aside, each of the titles would earn the club another appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 2010-11 season, RSL made a notable run to the final and still remains as the only MLS team to reach a CONCACAF final.
All RSL needs to reach the CONCACAF Champions League is one trophy, but here are 10 things that need to happen for RSL to earn all three.
Whitney O'Bannon is a web sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
1 of 10. Win U.S. Open Cup final
D.C. United is so bad this year that it has the same number of MLS wins and Open Cup wins: three. The problem is that a March win against RSL is one of D.C. United's three MLS victories.
Real Salt Lake lost in Washington, D.C., a stadium where the Claret and Cobalt are still winless (0-6-3). This match, however, features a much better established RSL side that has home field advantage.
Although it seems as if Real Salt Lake should be able to easily wrap up a victory and a title, it might not be as simple as it sounds. RSL's U.S. Open Cup run already featured two overtime games, a rare Utah downpour and an interesting mix of reserve and first team players. Every Open Cup game has entertained, but rarely been wrapped up before the final whistle.
2 of 10. Take care of must-win games vs. bottom of the West
San Jose, despite being the eighth team in the Western Conference, still has a chance of making the playoffs. This game might be tricky because San Jose is playing directly for a life in the playoff picture. In two contests this season, RSL outscored the Earthquakes 5-0. The home team will need to continue blanking San Jose and keep star Chris Wondolowski under wraps.
The closeness of the top teams in the West right now almost guarantees that the Supporters' Shield winner will come down to the very last week of regular season play. When it comes down to it, the Chivas may be the only thing standing between RSL and the No. 1 spot in the final 2013 MLS rankings. In recent games, top teams like Colorado and Portland fell victim to the Chivas charm. RSL cannot afford to get caught looking and watch the Chivas strip glory from Salt Lake.
3 of 10. Restore potent attack
RSL established one of the most potent offenses in MLS, scoring a league high 52 goals on the season in 29 games. RSL's recent loss to Seattle was the first game the high-powered offense failed to score in 23 consecutive games.
When Real scores three or more goals, it is 9-1-1 on the season. When Jason Kreis' side is held to two or below though, the team is very average at 9-5-8.
4 of 10. Win mental battles
In addition to overall pressure, every player individually will need to keep his head. RSL suffered losses and draws this season from unfavorable calls. Outcomes were affected on several occasions when referees awarded penalty kicks to RSL's opponent for incidental handballs and fouls in the box. On occasion, Real Salt Lake struggled to move past the calls made, and the games ended unfavorably.
The most recent example of this happened in Seattle and was actually the opposite. A Sounder went in for a hard challenge on Javier Morales in Seattle's box and the referee said play on. Morales went down hard and felt the defender took a cheap shot at his ankle. The rest of the game, Morales, and consequently the rest of the RSL squad, had trouble moving on from the play as it was a potential game changer.