MLS • RSL hasn't lost when starting four best defenders.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sandy • The Real Salt Lake back line has been something less than constant this season with regard to personnel.
But when the lack of injuries and international duty have allowed RSL to start their best four defenders, they have been unbeatable.
Including Saturday's 1-0 victory over Houston, RSL is 3-0-1 in MLS matches with just two goals allowed when they have started outside backs Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert next to center backs Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo.
Coach Jason Kreis was happy with how his four defenders performed in the win on Saturday, especially against a strong, tough forward like Houston's Will Bruin.
"We weren't great with the ball, but the good news is defensively, we were really good," Kreis said. "Beltran and Wingert made some really critical tackles when the ball was played in behind them … all of them were really, really good tonight."
Salt Lake is 10-0-1 across all competitions this season including U.S. Open Cup play in matches that both Beltran and Wingert have started. In MLS matches, that record is 7-0-1 with just four goals allowed.
"Tony's been awesome," Wingert said after the win. "He's been awesome for a while, he's really coming into his own now that he's been playing every week for us for a couple years."
"Chris and I have been fortunate enough to play together for a long time and just have a good understanding," Beltran said. "But it's not just us two. It's Nat and Carlos and all of the other defenders, and especially Nick behind us."
While Nick Rimando has been terrific in goal for RSL, Beltran is right about the two center backs Borchers and Salcedo, who are 6-0-2 across all matches when starting beside each other, including 4-0-2 in MLS matches.
"We have good communication," Salcedo said after the game in Spanish of his relationship at the center back position with Borchers. "We want to continue not losing, and while the coach keeps choosing me, we want to keep the momentum we have."
The four defenders are a big reason why Real Salt Lake owns the best goal differential in MLS, 12, and is the fifth best team in terms of goals allowed, giving up just 26 goals through 24 matches.