Soccer • Hard work needed to stay high in the MLS standings.
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Lehi • Defender Chris Wingert believes the next four weeks would be critical for Real Salt Lake, even if the team wasn't dealing with its ill-timed flurry of injuries and international absences.
"No doubt," he said, "it's a crucial month."
The team will play six league games in a 22-day span starting when it plays host to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, making June probably the most challenging month of its season.
Its arrival could not come at a worse time, either, with RSL severely short-handed and still straining to find a way out of its post-Champions League malaise. It's 1-2-2 since losing to Monterrey, coming off the first home loss in league play in two years and playing this week without five potential starters.
"It will be a tough month," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "Hopefully we can get through it and still be decent in the standings."
Victory against Vancouver would be a good start.
The Whitecaps have gone 0-5-7 since winning their inaugural game, including a 1-1 tie at Chivas USA on Wednesday night their first since firing coach Teitur Thordarson and replacing him with Tom Soehn.
While calling the firing "shocking" and "appalling," coach Jason Kreis of RSL said he's always wary of playing teams that recently fired coaches because their players are often motivated to prove themselves to the new regime. He was pleased, however, that he would be able to see the Whitecaps play before they meet RSL, to get a sense of how they will play under the new coaching staff.
"It's going to be a dangerous opponent for us, for sure," he said.
Still, RSL has tried to keep the focus on itself through its difficult stretch.
Kreis said the team is getting closer to finding a rhythm without injured playmaker Javier Morales, and might have developed it further in the second half against the Seattle Sounders last weekend, had it not been for a red card on defender Jamison Olave that forced it to change tactics.
The team eventually lost, 2-1, and Olave will be automatically suspended for the game against the Whitecaps.
That's not good news for a team already missing Morales, as well as three players midfielder Will Johnson and forwards Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez who are away on international duty at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
All three are expected to miss at least the next three games, and possibly more, as RSL tries to keep pace with the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy in the chase for the Supporters Shield regular-season title in Major League Soccer.
RSL faces probably its most challenging month, with six games in June:
Date Opponent Time*
Saturday Vancouver 7 p.m.
June 8 at Columbus 5:30 p.m.
June 11 at Philadelphia 5:30 p.m.
June 18 D.C. United 7 p.m.
June 22 at Chicago 6:30 p.m.
June 25 Toronto 7 p.m.
*All times MDT
Vancouver at RSL