RSL goes for sweep over FC Dallas

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

When Real Salt Lake goes to Dallas for a rematch of last Saturday’s game in Rice-Eccles Stadium, RSL will hope to repeat the three-point result. Fans and players alike just hope that RSL doesn’t have to take the same route to get there.

RSL will try to feed off the emotion of its most impressive comeback victory in team history. This time around, RSL will have its most potent goal scorer, Jeff Cunningham, back in action after he was forced to sit out the team’s previous 3-2 victory for receiving his fifth yellow card infraction in a Sept. 9 draw with D.C. United.

RSL will also look to keep all 11 players on the field for the entire match, something the team did not do last Saturday. Although Carey Talley was ejected with a potentially dangerous tackle from behind midway through the first half, it did not stop RSL from capturing an impressive come-from-behind victory.

Coach John Ellinger is well aware of what Dallas will try to accomplish against his team on Saturday.

“They will come out motivated, not only because we beat them at our place last Saturday, but because this will be their third chance to clinch a playoff spot,” Ellinger said. “I am anticipating quite a firestorm from them during the game’s first 15-20 minutes. We have to be able to weather the storm and look to create counter chances going the other way.”

RSL will have its own agenda motivating its efforts. The team currently sits three points behind both Chivas and Colorado for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Calling the final four matches of the regular season “huge” would be an understatement. RSL must keep pace with Chivas if it hopes to make the playoffs. Even though Colorado also stands just three points ahead of RSL, Salt Lake has lost the tiebreaker with the Rapids, and therefore must surpass its Rocky Mountain rival if it hopes to steal the Rapids’ current playoff spot.

“We have to approach every game from here on out the same way we approached the second half on Saturday: with urgency, intensity and that same ‘refuse-to-lose’ attitude,” Ellinger said. “If we can beat them after going a man down, there is no reason we shouldn’t believe we can beat them at their place.”

If RSL can complete a back-to-back sweep of FC Dallas, and Chivas and Colorado play to a draw Saturday, RSL will move to just one point behind the two with three games remaining. The benefit of having Colorado and Chivas playing one another on Saturday is that no matter what happens, RSL cannot be more than four points out of a playoff spot.

RSL will have to go without the services of Atiba Harris and Talley. Harris has been recalled to the national team camp for St. Kitts and Nevis for the Caribbean Zone qualification stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Although Harris has been an important option off the bench for Ellinger, the loss of him doesn’t carry the significance of losing Carey Talley.

Talley will be sidelined because of his red card in RSL’s previous game. His absence will leave a void in the RSL midfield. He has been a solid player at midfield all year long. Talley has even worn the captain’s arm bad in limited service this year when both Jason Kreis and Eddie Pope were unavailable.

RSL will insert Douglas Sequeira into Talley’s midfield spot.

Three of RSL’s last four games are on the road. The last time RSL will play at home during the regular season will be Oct. 7 against the Houston Dynamo.