HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake started the 2023 season with a 2-1 victory over Vancouver. But then RSL scored just one goal in its next four games, including back-to-back 4-0 shutout losses. The team hit a low point. But over the last month, they have found their groove.
“Really it’s been the last four or five games,” said head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Going through a difficult spell at the beginning and overcoming a lot of adversity. I think that in the last few games, we’ve been able to put some goals in the back of the net. I feel like we’ve hit both ends, and now it’s about really putting together that perfect game.”
“I think that the grit and the attitude that we have,” said midfielder Diego Luna. “We’re non-stop, and we’re just fighting even if things aren’t going our way.”
Entering Saturday night’s game against Seattle, RSL had scored three goals in three of its last four games across all matches, before battling the top team in the Western Conference to a scoreless draw on Saturday. While the may not have found the back of the net, that was RSL’s first shutout of the season.
“I think when you look back objectively and unemotionally at who we played against,” said Mastroeni. “The way we played them, we stood face to face with them, that gives you confidence moving forward.”
“Everybody was pretty happy about the shutout,” said forward Bertin Jacquesson. “We would have liked to have won that game, but the team did play well to stay together.”
RSL captain Damir Kreilach score two goals in last week’s U.S. Open Cup overtime victory against Las Vegas, his first goal since the season opener in February. Kreilach, who played nine minutes against Seattle after going the full 120 against Vegas, is trying to get back to full strength after suffering a groin injury.
“Dami has been an amazing teammate,” Mastroeni said. “He continuously works on himself to improve. For me, there’s no timeline on when Dami is going to be back. I think Dami’s performances speak for themselves. We’ll see how we go moving forward, but he’s been fantastic.”
As players get healthier and different lineup choices emerge, Mastroeni is trying to not out-think himself going forward.
“There’s an old saying in soccer,” Mastroeni said. “It says, coaches lose games, players win games, and referees ruin games. When you’re in a good run to form, it’s because the mood of the group is right. The feeling is right in the group. If you start tinkering with things just to tinker with things because you think you’re going to out-coach the other coach, for me, the more thinking you do as a coach, the worse off you are with your decision making.”
Real Salt Lake (3-5-1) next plays at Houston Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.