This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On the bright side, it turns out Real Salt Lake actually has clinched a Major League Soccer playoff berth.
But not much else has gone right for it the past couple of days.
While league officials have corrected their mistaken calculation that RSL did not clinch a playoff spot with its dramatic home draw against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, the defending MLS Cup champions endured a frustrating travel ordeal en route to their crucial CONCACAF Champions League game against Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto.
Nearly half the team was stuck in Atlanta overnight Sunday after missing a Delta Air Lines connection there, forcing coach Jason Kreis to cancel practice Monday in advance of a game in which RSL can achieve one of its biggest goals of the season by qualifying for the knockout round of the prestigious international tournament.
"We're going to go after it," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said.
Simply a draw against the slumping Reds will assure RSL reaches the Champions League quarterfinals in February, and Kreis rested a passel of his best players during a 1-1 league draw against Colorado last weekend to make sure they were fresh for what he believes is the key to the rest of the season.
"We feel like that's the one that we have to get a result in," he said, "so we can wrap up this Champions League stuff so that we can then turn our focus to the Supporters Shield and the playoffs right behind it."
But the travel trouble might make things a bit more challenging for a tired team playing its fifth of six games in an 18-day span, one of which was in Panama less than a week ago.
Team spokesman Trey Fitz-Gerald said a dozen members of the 30-man travel party had to stay in Atlanta after missing their connection. The rest of the team boarded flights later Sunday night, he said, though Kreis said not all of its baggage had yet to catch up with it in Toronto.
"We'll hope that we have shoes and soccer balls" Tuesday night, he joked.
The team had scheduled an 75-minute layover between flights in Atlanta, Fitz-Gerald said, but its flight from Salt Lake City departed an hour late on Sunday morning - barely 12 hours after RSL ended its game against the Rapids - and arrived in Atlanta an hour late.
Still, the plane was at the gate and the jetway door was open when coaches and players arrived to board their connecting flight, Kreis said.
But after telling them to wait a moment while she sorted some things out, the gate agent there "just closed the door and didn't want to talk to us." The coach said the gate agent already had given away the team's seats to stand-by passengers, and presumed she did not want to endure the hassle of trying to change everything back to accommodate RSL.
"It's mind-boggling that they didn't do what I thought would have been the right thing," Kreis said.
That spun the trip into chaos.
"Where is the nearest bar?" midfielder Andy Williams wondered in a post on Twitter.
"Worst traveling day all year," Beckerman posted.
Players and coaches proceeded to juggle a series of gate changes and other delays "thank u very little," defender Chris Wingert tweeted while adjusting their accommodations and plans in Toronto. Fitz-Gerald said the airline offered to pay for hotel rooms only for those players who had gold status in Delta's frequent-flier program, because it said the incoming flight delay was weather-related and not the fault of the airline.
A spokeswoman for Delta Air Lines said she couldn't comment on the situation without knowing the flight numbers involved, then did not return a phone message that relayed that information.
The coaches and players who had to stay in Atlanta caught flights to Toronto on Monday morning, and Kreis put some of them through light workouts in small groups as they arrived at the team hotel.
The coach worried that his players did not get enough rest, eat properly or benefit from another organized training session in advance of its big game.
"It presents some real challenges," Kreis said.
Real Salt Lake at Toronto FC
At BMO Field, Toronto
Kickoff • 6 p.m. MDT
TV • Fox Soccer Channel
Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 106.1 FM
Records in CCL • RSL 3-1-0, Toronto 1-2-1
About RSL • It's atop the table in Group A of the tournament, needing a win or a draw tonight to advance to the knockout round. … Forward Alvaro Saborio has scored six goals in four tournament games, three of them from the penalty spot. … It beat Toronto 4-1 in the Champions League match-up at home on Sept. 15, but has allowed the opening goal in every group game so far. … Coach Jason Kreis expects to have a full squad healthy and available.
About the Reds • Riding a five-game winless streak at home after a 13-game home unbeaten stretch, they're fighting to adjust to a new coach after the old one was fired. … Star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario used a "sign-the-check" motion during a goal celebration last weekend to tell management he wants a new contract. … They probably need to win both remaining group games to advance.