With Real Salt Lake facing Portland Timbers for the third time in as many weeks, there's an air of familiarity about this one. As expected, the approach doesn't change for RSL.
Nat Borchers said RSL showed character to come back for the draw against Portland, but it wasn't satisfactory.
"We definitely didn't get the defensive result we wanted to on the road," he said after training on Thursday "We gave up a goal on a set piece and a goal off a penalty and a goal off the run of play. We definitely know they're a dangerous team and we need to clean some things up."
The returning veteran trio of Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando, and Kyle Beckerman provides a boost, Borchers said, but it doesn't change RSL's approach.
"We always try to bring a lot of confidence to every game we play. Having those guys back — Sabo, Nick and Becks back — helps out a lot for sure, but it still doesn't change anything, the way we approach the game," Borchers said.
RSL coach Jason Kreis agreed, noting the depth of his squad.
"We've established such a deep group right now and there so many players that have confidence and should have confidence and have contributed," he said. "I think that we gain a little bit of an uptick because Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio are special players. I do think the mentality and the spirit will be the same."
Striking while the iron is hot
"It's a hard choice for me because we have great players out there," Morales said after Thursday's training session. "You know, Sabo, Findley, Garcia, Plata, Sandoval — everyone is playing good, scoring goals, so that is very important for the team.
"We have more choices. Now, if Sabo has to go to the national team or is injured, the other guys that are staying home are good too — so even the competition between them is higher, so everyone is improving every game."
Jason Kreis attributes some of the success the midfield has seen in2 013 to the effectiveness of the strikers.
"A lot of how effective we are in attack comes down to not necessarily the forwards always scoring the goals, but the forwards making the right tactical decision about when they should be taking players on and taking a lot of risks, and when they should not — when they should just hold the ball up and involve more players going forward," he said.
"Early on this year, we had some problems with that with the new guys in particular, about some of the choices they were making, but as of late, they're making fantastic choices, involving more players, involving more numbers coming from deep areas. (The midfielders) have benefited from that."
With the team having notably conceded from set pieces plenty of times in recent memory, Nat Borchers said there's been a renewed focus on defending them.
"We've definitely put a huge focus on set pieces this week in particular, and we've watched a lot of video and talked a lot about starting positions and getting close to guys, and how we're doing as a group and individuals defensively," he said.
But despite that focus, Kreis said he doesn't see it as vital.
"I don't really feel like it's an area where practicing gives you a whole lot of benefit, because you have to bring the right spirit and mentality in the match," he said. "When we do that, we're typically good, when we let ourselves slip a little from that, we get punished. It's not just an area that we struggle with, it's an area that a lot of goals are scored in. Dead balls are dangerous situations. We just have to be aware of it, respect it, and get ourselves up for it."
Kreis clearly chooses an attacking mentality — one more likely to score goals — over one designed to prevent them.
"I'll be frank," Kreis said. "I would rather tie 3-3 than tie 0-0. We have an aggressive mentality; we always have. Why not practice what we preach and say that the fact that we're scoring goals is the positive? Do we allow goals? Yeah, for sure. Soccer's like sleeping with a blanket that's too small. You can cover your head or your feet, and sometimes you have to make a choice."