Second-half recharge

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

A brick wall stands between Real Salt Lake and victory Saturday night in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

That brick wall is the New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.

The MLS All-Star has posted six shutouts so far this season, one of which came against RSL on June 2.

Fresh off an efficacious reprieve from MLS action, in which it scorched Everton FC 2-0 and tied Boca Juniors 1-1, RSL will apply its success to league play.

But Reis and New England hope to take over the Eastern Conference lead at RSL’s expense.

The Revolution is tied with New York at the conference’s pinnacle. New England’s defensive formula is the reason it has a good chance to hold that honor after Saturday.

The Revolution’s defense will further be aided by the inability of RSL to produce goals.

Real’s offense has struggled mightily, producing a league low of 12 goals this season. Meanwhile, the Revolution’s defense is the best in the east, allowing a conference low of 20 goals.

New England’s brick wall did show cracks on July 22 when Houston punctured Reis for three goals in a draw between the conference leaders.

Real’s new faces hope to find the same success Saturday.

Midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who was shipped over from Colorado for Mehdi Ballouchy, joined the team for both international friendlies over the All-Star break and delighted his coach with his hustle.

“I remarked at one point it was amazing because he was sprinting 10 yards forwards, backwards, right, left, just to get pressure on the ball,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said after defeating Everton.

Kreis has a clear idea of how his midfielders should play, and Beckerman has been up to the task thus far.

“I’m asking (Beckerman) to play right center midfield,” Kreis said. “It’s a little different than people think typically, but that’s the way I want it played.”

Since Beckerman filled this position, offensive has scored three goals and the defense has relented only one.

Beckerman is not the only player adjusting, or readjusting, to his RSL jersey.

Freddy Adu returns to MLS play for the first time since Real’s June 17 match with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

While with the U.S. Under-20 National Team, Adu set fire to the international stage with three goals and two assists. In his first game back with RSL on July 24, Adu scored the team’s lone goal on a penalty kick to help RSL draw with South American super-squad Boca Juniors, 1-1.

Adu’s goal came after he displayed some of his heralded ball-handling skills, before being fouled inside the goal box.

After finding success with the U.S. U-20 team, the midfielder may have found his rhythm, which bodes well for RSL in the second half of the season.

Although discussion of Adu playing in Europe has intensified, the young midfielder remains focused on the task at hand.

“Actually, I have no idea what’s going on. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff in the papers, but at this point I just told my agent, ‘Just handle everything,'” Adu said after the draw with Boca Juniors. “I’m just pretty happy and focused right now, and when I’m happy I play my best?the most important thing is me being with Salt Lake and contributing with this team.”

Eddie Pope’s services are once again at Kreis’ disposal as the 11-time All-Star returns from his final All-Star appearance. The MLS legend announced his retirement plans, which are to go into effect at the end of the season.

RSL’s playoff hunt seems dim as it sits at the bottom of the Western Conference with nine points. Its roster bustling with change, Real is looking for a boost. Its two midseason exhibition matches, combined with a win over New England, could be the type of change Real is looking for.

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Lennie Mahler

Boca Juniors goalkeeper Pablo Migliore dives, but is unable to stop Freddy Adu’s penalty kick in the first half of an international friendly match at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Tuesday night. Boca Juniors pressured RSL defense in the second half to score, ending the game in a 1-1 draw.